Trucking Companies Challenge L.A. Port Project


LOS ANGELES (CN) - Six trucking companies sued Los Angeles and its Harbor Commission, claiming they abused powers of eminent domain and violated environmental law to force the businesses off land for a $500 million railyard near the Port of Los Angeles.
     The companies filed two complaints in Superior Court, claiming Los Angeles approved the project without considering the environmental effects and the cost to business.
     Fast Lane Transportation is the sole plaintiff in one lawsuit.
     Plaintiffs in the other complaint include California Cartage Co., Three Rivers Trucking, Los Angeles Grain Terminal and its parent company Mortimer & Wallace and affiliates, and San Pedro Forklift.
     The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. is named as a real party in interest in both complaints.
     The businesses challenge the city's May 8 approval of a BNSF Railway final environmental review, and its issuance of a permit for the Southern California International Gateway project.
     Construction will force the businesses to move under eminent domain, to the railroad's profit and at the truckers cost, the companies claim.
     The BNSF plans to build a 153-acre railyard near Wilmington and Long Beach, about 4 miles from the busiest container port in the nation. The port complex in San Pedro spans 7,500 acres and stretches along 43 miles of oceanfront.
     The BNSF "operates one of the world's largest railroads and is a major logistical component of shipping goods to and from the port," California Cartage says in its complaint.
     BNSF will take cargo to and from the port, by rail rather than truck. The railroad says the Southern California International Gateway will reduce congestion on I-710, the Long Beach Freeway, and improve air quality at the notoriously polluted port.
     But the plaintiffs, calling themselves "port-dependent small business owners," say they are "within the crosshairs of the project's requirement that certain parcels of land be stripped from their owners and occupants to compile the necessary property to build the project."
     Lamenting the "substantial and abrupt changes to their current business operations," the companies claim the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to consider the "effects of transportation, land use and jobs, among other impacts, the project has on the petitioners and the community."
     The companies claim that about 1,000 jobs will be lost through their relocation. They claim the city made the "outrageous" and "unfounded" claim that competitors will rehire people who lose their jobs.
     "Amazingly, neither the city nor the port own or control the proposed relocation area, leaving the entire relocation mitigation discussion as illusory," the complaint states.
     They want the court to halt the project until the environmental impacts are addressed and mitigated in compliance with CEQA.
     The plaintiffs are represented by John Peterson of Irvine.