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A service for environmental industry professionals · Monday, August 15, 2022 · 586,190,917 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Attorney General Bonta Intervenes in Lawsuit to Protect Environmental Justice Communities in West Oakland

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today intervened in a lawsuit challenging the Port of Oakland’s approval of the Eagle Rock Aggregates Terminal (Eagle Rock) project for violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Eagle Rock project site is located less than a mile from West Oakland, a community that has borne the brunt of pollution from Port operations and other sources for decades. The project would substantially increase pollution in the area, bringing 2.5 million tons of construction material to the Port each year and generating an estimated 70,000 new truck trips and 76 new barge trips to and from the Port annually.

“The West Oakland community already suffers from some of the highest pollution levels in the state,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The Eagle Rock Aggregate Terminal will only add to their pollution burden, resulting in shorter life spans, more trips to the emergency room, and chronic illness. At the California Department of Justice, we'll always stand up for communities that are overburdened and under-resourced. My office has repeatedly voiced its concerns with this project to the Port. Today, we are intervening in this case to advocate for the mitigation and analysis this community deserves, and we are hopeful that the Port will demonstrate its shared commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of West Oakland residents."

The new Eagle Rock project is designed to receive millions of tons of construction materials, which will be stored in three large uncovered stockpiles, providing almost no protections against dust and particulate matter traveling offsite and to the surrounding community. The Port's own environmental analysis found that the stockpiles would emit an estimated 900 pounds of crystalline silica PM2.5 and 6,000 pounds of PM10 emissions annually. The project is also expected to generate substantial emissions from the truck and barge trips associated with the project's operations. 

The site of the Eagle Rock terminal is less than a mile from West Oakland, a predominately low-income community of color already experiencing high levels of air pollution from the Port, four highways, industrial facilities, and truck-related businesses. According to CalEnviroScreen, the West Oakland community experiences some of the highest levels of pollution in the state, as well as the resulting health consequences. Air pollution-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic respiratory disease are leading causes of death in West Oakland, and life expectancy is 6.6 years lower in West Oakland than in Alameda County overall. Almost 25% of the students at West Oakland Middle School have asthma or breathing problems.   

Under CEQA, the Port of Oakland is required to consider reasonable alternatives to the Eagle Rock project and implement all feasible mitigation measures to lessen the pollution impacts of the project on this community. The California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice sent letters to the Port of Oakland highlighting deficiencies in its environmental analysis in October 2019 and January 2021. Despite this, in November 2021, the Port released a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Review (FSEIR) containing many of the same deficiencies.

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project filed a lawsuit challenging the Eagle Rock project on March 24, 2022. In today’s petition joining the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta argues that the Port of Oakland’s approval of the Eagle Rock project violated CEQA because:

  • The Port of Oakland’s FSEIR failed to meaningfully analyze the Eagle Rock project’s inconsistency with the goals and targets of the AB 617 Community Emissions Reductions Plan developed for West Oakland; 
  • The FSEIR failed to consider all reasonable alternatives to cover or enclose the project’s three uncovered stockpiles; and
  • The FSEIR failed to adopt all feasible mitigation measures for the Eagle Rock project and improperly postponed action on the mitigation measures that it did adopt. 

Attorney General Bonta is fighting environmental injustices throughout the state and giving a voice to frontline communities like West Oakland who are often under-resourced and overburdened. Earlier this year, Attorney General Bonta sent a letter highlighting concerns with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review of the Oakland Harbor Turning Basins project at the Port of Oakland. In July, the Attorney General followed up with a letter to the Port of Oakland on their own future environmental analysis of the project, urging a comprehensive review of the project's impacts in West Oakland.  

You can find more information on the Bureau of Environmental Justice and its work at: https://oag.ca.gov/environment/justice

A copy of the petition to intervene is available here.

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