California’s attorney general has filed suit against the Federal Aviation Administration, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority and Hillwood Enterprises LLC charging that the approval of a large cargo operation at SBD will have significant environmental impacts on the community.
Speaking at Indian Springs High School, which is a few blocks north of the airport in San Bernardino, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced a lawsuit.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the rights of pollution-burdened communities are respected. We filed this lawsuit because ‘business as usual’⎯ the kind that hurts low-income, disadvantaged communities ⎯ is no longer an option,” said Becerra.
According to the lawsuit filed at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the court must review the FAA’s Dec. 23, 2019, approval of the Eastgate Air Cargo Facility project under the National Environmental Policy Act.
In October 2018, after reviewing the project under the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority published the Final Environmental Impact Report, “finding that the project would have significant and unavoidable impacts on the environment,” says the lawsuit.
Becerra said his office urged the FAA in November to perform a complete environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by preparing the Environmental Impact Statement. His office was ignored.
“The Airport Authority then reviewed the project under NEPA, but failed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement required under NEPA for actions that may cause significant impacts on the environment,” says the lawsuit.
“The comments further urged the agencies to correct their flawed air emissions modeling analysis, reconcile the project impacts with state and local requirements to control air pollution, and examine the expansion’s impacts on the nearby community,” said Becerra.
Instead, the FAA approved the project in December. Immediately after, Hillwood Enterprises LLC began construction of the project.
According to Becerra’s office, the project involves construction of a 658,500-square-foot air cargo warehouse that would generate at least an additional 500 truck trips and 26 flights daily at the airport, operating seven days a week.
The Airport Authority did not respond to calls from the Redlands Community News. However, last December, San Bernardino Mayor and Airport Authority President John Valdivia, praised the project arguing it will create jobs and economic benefits to the region.
Andrea Vidaurre, policy analyst at the Center for Community Action Environmental Justice, said the project is near Muscoy and San Bernardino, communities with high rates of air pollution and high asthma rates. The project is also within a mile of several schools, she said.
“The pattern of agencies ignoring and marginalizing our communities and dismissing the concerns of residents needs to come to an end,” Viduarre said. “By failing to uphold the National Environmental Policy Act, the FAA sided with industry.”
This is the second lawsuit challenging the project. On Jan. 29, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Sierra Club, Teamsters Local 1932 and two local residents jointly filed a petition for review in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the FAA’s approval as a violation of NEPA.
This lawsuit was filed by the Bureau of Environmental Justice, which was established by Attorney General Becerra on Feb. 22, 2018. The Bureau’s mission is to protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards.
The FAA told the Redlands Community News that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.