Environmental Voices Team Up with Teamsters to Fight Rumored Amazon Airport Terminal in California’s Inland Empire
Environmental advocates and the Teamsters joined arms in a lawsuit today to halt a new airport terminal at the San Bernardino Airport and begin a robust environmental review. The airport terminal threatens to generate one ton of toxic air pollution every single day and usher in yet another slew of low quality jobs for the Inland Empire. The LA Times has reported that online shopping giant Amazon is the long rumored tenant for the massive proposed airport terminal, which they would use to supply their fulfillment centers.
Earthjustice is representing the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) and the Sierra Club, and the Law Office of Gideon Kracov is representing the Teamsters Local 1932, in the lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority. The FAA’s finding of “no significant impact” for a project predicted to generate one ton of air pollution per day in a community suffering from some of the worst air quality in the nation is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The FAA has chosen to ignore the dirty impacts this new airport terminal will create for us, but by their own assessment it will pump one ton of toxic air pollution into San Bernardino every day,” says Anthony Victoria, Communications Director at CCAEJ. “Developers and corporations should be required to meet stringent standards if they’re trying to build in a community suffering from the nation’s worst air quality, not given free rein to deplete our quality of life in San Bernardino.”
Residents in #SBAirportCommunities are organizing for a new standard of healthy economic development! We demand a legally-enforceable Community Benefits Agreement guaranteeing GOOD JOBS and CLEAN AIR at @Amazon's anticipated air cargo hub development at @SBDAirport pic.twitter.com/KJn8NtWMiF— San Bernardino Airport Communities (@SBACommunities) January 24, 2020
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a major organizing effort within the Inland Empire. The community has risen up as the San Bernardino Airport Communities Coalition to mobilize and inform the wider public even as the FAA pushed the Eastgate terminal approvals through over the holiday season. A booming rally at an Amazon fulfillment center on Cyber Monday halted the flow of trucks on the busiest online shopping day of the year as the community called out poor conditions for Amazon workers and the impacts of dirty diesel trucks. Since then, the San Bernardino Airport Communities Coalition — which includes CCAEJ, the Sierra Club, and the Teamsters Local 1932 — has organized numerous actions to say “enough” to the endless tide of warehouse expansions in the Inland Empire threatening the well-being of the region in order to supply America’s online shopping demand.
Instead, they are rallying around cries for a Community Benefits Agreement from Amazon as the long-rumored tenant of the proposed San Bernardino airport terminal. The legally enforceable agreement between Amazon and the community would include guarantees for good jobs and zero emissions electric trucks among other measures to address the high childhood asthma rates and already toxic air conditions in the community.
“This fight is emblematic of large retailers like Amazon not being held accountable for good jobs and clean air in the communities they’re operating in. People have had enough with the toxic truck pollution and exploitative jobs that rob them of a future,” said Adrian Martinez, staff attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “The Inland Empire is the heart of a national struggle for healthy air and jobs with dignity.”
San Bernardino County already gets an “F” grade from the American Lung Association: within a population of 2 million people, the county has 35,481 cases of children with pediatric asthma and 124,483 adults with asthma. In 2018, the American Thoracic Society estimated that cleaning up the air in the Inland Empire would save 609 lives and save 1,250 people from serious illness.
The environmental assessment done by the FAA reveals that once built, operations at the airport terminal would pump one ton of toxic air pollution into the community every day, with 500 truck trips each day. In total, the terminal would send 355 tons of toxic air pollution into the community every year with 7,516 total truck trips.
“We believe that our communities deserve robust analysis, and solutions that can be formalized in a community benefits agreement,” says Yassi Kavezade, Sierra Club Organizing Representative. “We continue to set records for smog alerts in San Bernardino — if we passively let business as usual continue in the Inland Empire, this project will cost residents their health for generations to come.”
The logistics industry has mushroomed in the Inland Empire in the past few years, rezoning land and erecting vast fields of warehouses that often directly abut homes and backyards. The industry’s promise of jobs has instead delivered options that leave families living on the edge with low wages, a revolving door at facilities, and meager benefits. UC Riverside’s State of Work report shows that only 4 out of 10 jobs in the Inland Empire pay a livable wage. An eye-opening 2019 investigation at Reveal found the overall rate of serious injuries at 28 Amazon fulfillment centers across 16 states was more than double the warehousing industry average.
“Hillwood, a frequent Amazon developer, has taken insufficient measures to lessen the impact of their huge project on the working class and majority-Latino communities that surround the airport,” says Mario Vasquez, Teamsters Local 1932 Communications Coordinator. “A Community Benefits Agreement that guarantees good jobs and clean air at this new airport terminal is crucial for the livelihoods of future generations in the Inland Empire.”
Hillwood, the developer of the proposed terminal, has built 17 facilities for Amazon in eight states, including the first Amazon facility in California.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.