Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inland SoCal City Appeals Loss in Port Impact Suit

The City Council for the inland Southern California desert city of Riverside has decided to appeal a March 10 California Superior Court ruling that sought to stop the expansion of the China Shipping Container Line terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

"The City Council has unanimously directed the City Attorney's office to file a notice of appeal and to seek appellate relief in the matter of City of Riverside versus City of Los Angeles," said Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos on Monday.

The suit, filed in May 2009, claimed that the port did not adequately consider the impacts of increased intermodal rail traffic from the terminal to Riverside when preparing environmental documents for the project. City attorneys argued in court that proposed terminal expansions at the Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach port could increase Riverside-area train traffic by more than 15 percent per day. The city claimed that the added train traffic would lead to increased pollution, greater street traffic logjams at train crossings, and possibly the loss of access by emergency personnel.

The desert community sits more than 50 miles inland from the port but serves as a key rail hub for Southern California port rail traffic headed east.

In the suit, Riverside demanded that the port redo environmental documents key to the Los Angeles terminal expansion moving forward. In addition, the city sought payments from the port to build grade separations isolating cargo rail traffic from the city's street traffic.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled that the port environmental documents properly considered the possible impacts to Riverside and, in turn, properly concluded that the terminal expansion would have "an insignificant impact" on the city. The March 10 decision was made public last week.

Concerns had been raised by the shipping industry that a Riverside victory could set a precedent where ports could be held financially liable for increased cargo traffic impacts to dozens of communities regardless of distance from the actual ports.

A similar city suit against the Port of Long Beach is still awaiting a ruling.