BNSF’s Proposed Intermodal Facility Awaits Court Ruling

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The fate of BNSF Railway’s proposed near-dock intermodal rail facility, known as the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG), is hanging in the balance until a California judge rules on civil rights and environmental issues.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in June in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Harbor residents living near the proposed development that would be built on Port of Los Angeles property.

The Plaintiffs contend the proposed Southern California International Gateway rail yard project violates the California Environmental Quality Act and the state and federal Civil Rights Acts.

Specifically, they assert that the facility will increase cancer rates, chances of children developing asthma, and add to chronic air pollution plaguing the region.

Last week, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode heard arguments and set Jan. 28, 2016 as the date to hear additional arguments involving CEQA’s fair-hearing provision.

He is expected to rule by February whether the project can move forward.

Gateway to the Nation

Some 40-percent of imported goods sold across the country are shipped through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The intermodal rail facility would be near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Ports are located approximately 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The port complex is composed of approximately 80 miles of waterfront and 7,500 acres of land and water, with approximately 500 commercial berths. The Ports include: automobile, container, omni, lumber, and cruise ship terminals; liquid and dry bulk terminals; and extensive transportation infrastructure for cargo movement by truck and rail.

Environmental Hazard or Asset?

While environmental groups, the City of Long Beach, and the local school district decry the project, BNSF claims the project will actually bring environmental benefits, as it will be cleaning up an existing truck yard and investing over $100 million in green technology.

The Port of LA’s draft environmental review found that SCIG will have a positive impact on traffic, both locally and regionally, by eliminating millions of truck trips from the 710, reducing congestion near the ports and along the 710 corridor.

NRDC attorneys and scientists have suggested several solutions to reduce the anticipated pollution associated with the project:

1.) Utilization of cleaner Tier 3 and Tier 4 locomotives instead of older, more polluting locomotives;

2.) Expand on-dock rail to eliminate the need for thousands of additional short-haul truck trips;

3.) Use zero-emission container movement systems.

Whatever the case, it won’t be resolved until Judge Goode’s ruling, and even that may be just the first round of a protracted legal battle.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.