Movement Concerns: Air Quality and Logistics
By Dianne Anderson
Warehouses, often synonymous with pollution, are cropping up everywhere, wearing down impacted communities with a nonstop dirty logistics movement of goods in trucks and trains in the Inland Empire.
Lately, the problem is getting more attention as California Attorney General Rob Bonta signed onto a Sierra Club lawsuit against Moreno Valley’s General 2040 Plan.
Bonta is challenging the city regarding its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) violations and the Plan’s long-term land use goals toward drawing in more development and warehouses, especially as western Moreno Valley already bears the brunt of air pollution.
Corey Jackson, who is running for the Assembly District 60 seat that includes Moreno Valley, said his main concern around the lawsuit and logistics movement has more to do with community health.
He feels the Attorney General is doing the right thing to ensure the legalities are addressed.
“We have a severe air quality and asthma issue. It’s not the warehouses per se, it’s the trucks they attract that are causing the pollution. It has been an issue in the community for the past 10 to 15 years,” he said.
If elected, Jackson said his focus is on the trucks that the warehouses attract, and ensuring that air quality is addressed as the state transitions to clean energy. However, he thinks the issue is multifaceted.
His concern is air quality, while others are concerned about local economic development and revenues, or with good jobs or jobs that allow people to be exploited.
But, he said those are not the only jobs they create.
“You have the people who build the warehouses, those are good paying jobs. It’s all those types of things. I think the issue is complicated,” he said. “There’s a reason why the issue needs to be addressed in a meaningful way.”
As communities address the complexities, he wants to look at all sides of the problem to find common ground.
“How can we at least address this issue in a more productive way to make sure we’re that we’re moving forward instead of the same stalled conversations that we’ve been having over the last decade?” he said.
In Bonta’s recent statement, he said Moreno Valley should be working to address existing environmental inequities in the city’s western region. Instead, its 2040 General Plan exacerbates them.
“Communities in Moreno Valley experience some of the highest levels of air pollution in the state. We’re intervening today so that those communities do not continue to bear the brunt of poor land use decisions that site warehouses outside their doors,” he said. “At the California Department of Justice, we’re fighting day in and day out for communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. Economic development and environmental justice are not mutually exclusive, and we’re committed to helping local governments find a sustainable path forward.”
In Rialto, Mayor Deborah Robertson says her city was one of a number of cities in the area that came out against Assembly Bill 2840 (Reyes), which calls for tightening CEQA requirements from its current 500 to 1,000 foot warehouse citing between residences and facilities.
Robertson said that Rialto abides by CEQA and NEQA, but she wonders how the bill could gain traction with restrictions on two of the 58 counties in the state. The bill addressed restricted use of the land, but she said it did not address the impact of environmental gasses, which often fall under federal regulation.
If passed, she said it would add another layer of regulatory access between the two Inland counties and entail ramifications stretching back to the Los Angeles goods movement.
She added that a lot is in the works to mitigate pollution impacts, including increased electric vehicles and zero-emission trucks.
“We’re trying to focus on bringing in an energy campus, not just to charge your Tesla, but also looking at the manufacturing of solar panels, battery storage, microgrids. That’s going to require being trained and certified. That’s the workforce we want to see.”
California is home to 40 percent of all zero-emission cars nationwide, and Gov. Newsom has directed zero-emissions requirements statewide for all cars and half the trucks by 2035.
“That’s what the technology is all about. We’re absolutely requiring more of the development whatever type it is, but moving to zero-emission vehicles or using another mode of petroleum,” she said. “I’m not gung-ho on pro developer or logistics.”
Robertson, with a background in urban planning, is serving her third term as mayor. She feels the bill wasn’t well thought out, and said that Assemblymember Reyes did not reach out to her to advise or consult.
In a recent statement on AB 2840, Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes said that the bill is now on hold.
If the legislation had passed, it would impose a 1,000-foot buffer between warehouses, 100,000 square feet or larger and sensitive receptors, which included schools, daycares, and homes.
She said the bill was tailored to the San Bernardino and Riverside counties because of the proliferation of warehouses, and the region is suffering some of the worst air quality impacts in the nation.
“We are not done. I will continue to work on this issue and welcome all stakeholders to the table to work together, because nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community. This includes our children, who depend on us to lead even if it costs a little more,” she said.