Environmental Groups Sue Los Angeles Over Rollback of Port Pollution Rules

In this June 19, 2019, file photo a cargo ship is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(CN) — Environmental and local community groups filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles on Wednesday, claiming that city approval of rollbacks of environmental rules for the China Shipping Container terminal at the port violated state law.

Citing the California Environmental Quality Act, the lawsuit says city leaders violated the law by approving environmental impact reports last October that “modified or eliminated” 11 pollution mitigation measures approved in 2008. The National Resources Defense Council, along with community activists and other environmental groups, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The complaint cites multiple pollution mitigation measures that China Shipping has failed to enact since they were put in place. The groups seek to vacate the certification of last year’s report.

“The Port of L.A. broke the law by abandoning its clean air commitments in the original EIR and, without justification, adopting measures that are far less protective,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior director of environmental justice for NRDC, in a statement. “The Port hid its actions from the public for nearly a decade, resulting in communities shouldering more and more pollution. The Port is not above the law. Our lawsuit seeks to hold the Port accountable.”  

The port of Los Angeles, also known as America’s Port, is responsible for about 20% of all cargo entering the United States. China represents the largest trading partner through the port, with an estimated $128 billion in goods passing through in 2019.

After agreeing to pollution mitigation measures in 2008, port officials in 2015 announced they would prepare a supplemental environmental impact report specifically for China Shipping’s terminal. This report, which was approved by city leaders last October, was meant to “eliminate or modify the mitigation measures,” according to the lawsuit.

“The Port legally promised it would adopt health-protective measures to minimize toxic air pollution from ships, trucks and equipment at the China Shipping terminal,” said Janet Schaaf-Gunter of San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners United in a statement. “Instead, Port authorities slithered around behind closed doors, abandoning many of its original environmental commitments.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a 40-year lease with China Shipping in 2001 to construct a shipping terminal, but did so without preparing an environmental impact report as required under state law, according to the NRDC. After being sued by environmental advocates, port authorities settled and issued an impact report in 2008.

An email sent after business hours to the LA City Attorney’s Office for comment was not immediately returned.  

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