MORENO VALLEY, Calif.— Environmental justice and conservation groups declared victory today and chose to let stand an appeals court tentative ruling dismissing an appeal to a 2015 legal challenge to the World Logistics Center. The court said the case is moot because the developer already abandoned its efforts to evade responsibility for the project’s greenhouse gas pollution.
The massive 40-million-square-foot warehouse complex planned for Moreno Valley in Southern California would worsen already poor air quality and harm wildlife in the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The project has been repeatedly challenged and rejected by courts.
“The developer’s attempt to shift responsibility for this warehouse’s massive climate pollution to California’s cap-and-trade program has been soundly rejected,” said attorney Aruna Prabhala, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program. “This landmark case has taught developers throughout the state that they must address their transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. They have to protect our climate instead of pointing fingers elsewhere.”
About the size of 700 football fields, the World Logistics Center, if built, is expected to generate 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution annually and generate more than 14,000 truck trips every day. Under the developer’s now-abandoned approach, those greenhouse gas emissions were deemed “covered” by state’s cap-and-trade program, in practice absolving the developer of responsibility to reduce the project’s emissions or mitigate the resulting impacts locally.
“The developer of the World Logistics Center tried to skirt the law twice to build a sprawling warehouse bound to heavily pollute the Inland Empire, but the courts struck him down,” said Adrian Martinez, a staff attorney at Earthjustice. “This fight is urgent not just because of the sheer scale of the World Logistics Center — which would bring 14,000 truck trips through the community every day — but also because it's emblematic of the wider warehouse boom in California that will influence what kind of air our state breathes in the future. We have to find a cleaner way to do logistics in California.”
The appeal court issued a tentative ruling in May 2020 echoing the Attorney General and California Air Resources Board’s criticism of the developer’s flawed approach.
“If other developers also consider shirking their responsibility for transportation and electricity related emissions by citing the state’s cap-and-trade program for individual local projects, the state’s efforts to meet its climate emission reduction goals would have been doomed,” said George Hague, conservation chair of Sierra Club’s Moreno Valley Group.
In June 2020 Moreno Valley approved a modified version of the massive World Logistics Center that abandoned the use of state’s cap-and-trade as mitigation for the project’s anticipated greenhouse gas pollution. The revised plan relies on dubious carbon offsets. The revised project is now being challenged in Riverside Superior Court by a coalition of environmental-justice and conservation groups.
“The fight against this massive warehouse project continues. We’re in whack-a-mole mode,” said Joe Lyou of Coalition for Clean Air. “We whacked one ill-conceived greenhouse gas argument and we now move on to the next.”
Trucks headed to the warehouse complex would be transporting goods more than 80 miles from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to Moreno Valley, often on two-lane roads that are already congested
“The community of Moreno Valley is already impacted by the logistics industry throughout the city. We have seen little enforcement and regulation to address emissions and negative health impacts from heavy-duty transportation,” said Ivette Torres, a Moreno Valley resident and interim policy coordinator for Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. “This is a big victory for neglected voices in Moreno Valley and we will continue the work to make sure cumulative impacts are greatly minimized.”
“The project threatens the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, home to many threatened and endangered wildlife and plants, including the California golden eagle, burrowing owl, tricolored blackbird and numerous other bird species, as well as the endangered San Jacinto crownscale and Stephens kangaroo rat,” said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “The project area itself is one of the best raptor habitats in the state.”
Initially approved by the city in August 2015, the controversial project was challenged by many government agencies, community and environmental groups. A Riverside Superior Court judge ruled that the environmental review for the project was inadequate in June 2018. The appeal was filed by Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity and Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP on behalf of Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, the Center for Biological Diversity, Coalition for Clean Air, Sierra Club and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.