Hallie Kutak, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7117, [email protected]
Lawsuit Challenges San Bernardino County Approval of Polluting Warehouse Near Schools, Homes
BLOOMINGTON, Calif.— Environmental justice and conservation groups sued San Bernardino County today for approving a Bloomington warehouse complex without adequately addressing the harms it will cause to air quality, public health and housing.
Today’s lawsuit asserts that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved a 213-acre business park to accommodate a massive warehouse and distribution center. The Bloomington Business Park would add more than 8,555 vehicle trips per day — including diesel truck traffic — to an area already referred to as a “diesel death zone” because of the influx of massive warehouses nearby.
In November the board of supervisors greenlit the project on a site the size of 173 football fields near low-income communities, communities of color and three schools. According to state data, the project area already has an overall pollution burden that is heavier than 94% of the state.
“The county’s approval of this project is not only unlawful — it is disproportionately harmful to a community that is already overburdened,” said Candice Youngblood of Earthjustice. “In the last several years, especially as e-commerce has boomed, we’ve seen the freight logistics industry sprawl across the Inland Empire. At this point, these warehouses are in folks’ backyard. The residence closest to this project site is only 11 feet away.”
“Residents in and around Bloomington already breathe some of the nation’s dirtiest air, but San Bernardino County wants to pile on still more pollution,” said Hallie Kutak, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of keeping young children and frontline communities safe, county leaders are allowing industrial developers to turn this neighborhood into a toxic zone. This trend of prioritizing warehouses over residents has got to stop.”
The county’s environmental review failed to consider and mitigate the air quality, greenhouse gas, traffic, noise and other environmental concerns caused by the increased truck traffic this project would bring to the area. These concerns were expressed by many individuals and organizations, including the California Air Resources Board.
“The county has once again ignored the health and safety of residents by approving this project that will add to the cumulative air quality impacts of diesel trucking in this corridor,” said Mary Ann Ruiz, chair of the San Gorgonio Chapter at the Sierra Club. “Concerns from community members and our environmental justice partners were ignored, and our county supervisors must be held accountable.”
“The environmental and health concerns of Bloomington residents have been neglected by the San Bernardino County planning staff and board of supervisors time and time again,” said Alejandra Gonzalez, member of the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice. “Building warehouses in the middle of our neighborhood strips us of our right to breathe clean air and these buildings encroach upon our homes, schools and ultimately our freedom. The approval of the Bloomington Business Park is a deliberate act of disrespect to the children, seniors and families who will continue to call Bloomington their home long after the land that currently houses horses, chickens and gardens becomes home to pallets, forklifts and machinery.”
Despite the county’s dire need for safe and affordable housing, it rezoned existing residential land to accommodate this industrial development, requiring at least 100 homes to be demolished and their occupants to be displaced. Other households near the project will face environmental and other harmful constraints.
Today’s lawsuit also argues that the county’s approval of the project violates fair housing laws intended to protect vulnerable communities from discrimination and requiring the county to, among other things, lift barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on national origin and other protected characteristics.
“We hoped that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors had the consciousness and convictions to never allow this to happen in an already overburdened community that is majority Latino low-income families, but they voted for it with no deliberation or consideration to public concerns of displacement and perpetuation of environmental racism,” said Ana Gonzalez, executive director of Center for Community Action Environmental Justice.
“There is no evidence that the county analyzed the project’s impacts on the primarily Latinx households that will be directly displaced by the project or in close proximity to the project,” said Nisha Vyas, an attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Nor did the county consider that this community will disproportionately bear the ongoing environmental, health, and housing harms caused by the Bloomington Business Park.”
Today’s lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court on behalf of the PCEJ, CCAEJ, Sierra Club and the Center. The Community Action and Environmental Justice is represented by Earthjustice; PCEJ is represented by Earthjustice and The Western Center on Law and Poverty; and the Sierra Club is represented by the Law Office of Abigail Smith.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.