Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Challenging Unlawful Airport Expansion Project at San Bernardino International Airport
Project would generate at least an additional 500 truck trips and 26 flights daily, hurting air quality and the local community
SAN BERNARDINO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, and Hillwood Enterprises, L.P. (Hillwood) for their unlawful efforts to greenlight a large airport expansion project with significant environmental impacts on local communities. The project involves the construction of a 658,500 square-foot air cargo warehouse and would generate at least an additional 500 truck trips and 26 flights daily at the airport, operating seven days a week. The airport is located near the San Bernardino-Muscoy community in San Bernardino County, a community identified by the California Air Resources Board as disproportionately burdened by pollution.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the rights of pollution-burdened communities are respected,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The FAA, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, and the developer of this proposed project have ignored months of warnings of the significant health risks to residents of this area. We filed this lawsuit because ‘business as usual’ — the kind that hurts low income, disadvantaged communities — is no longer an option.”
In November, Attorney General Becerra filed comments urging the FAA and the airport authority to perform a complete environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. 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. However, the agencies declined to complete the environmental analysis or make any of the corrections outlined in Attorney General Becerra’s comments. On December 23, 2019, the FAA approved the project. The developer, Hillwood, immediately began construction.
The project is just over a mile east of the San Bernardino-Muscoy community, a disadvantaged community already burdened by multiple sources of pollution and high asthma rates, and within a mile of several schools.
This is the second lawsuit challenging the project. On January 29, 2020, the Center for Community Action & 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.
“The pattern of agencies ignoring and marginalizing our communities and dismissing the concerns of residents needs to come to an end,” said Andrea Vidaurre, Policy Analyst at Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. “By failing to uphold the National Environmental Policy Act, the FAA sided with industry. Attorney General Xavier Beccera weighing in sends a strong signal that this old pattern of sidelining our health and well-being in the Inland Empire in the name of e-commerce development will be reined in. Families in San Bernardino have suffered enough under the haze of some of the worst air quality in the nation.”
“San Bernardino residents deserve to have a strong environmental analysis done for a project that can endanger their health for years to come if left unchecked,” said Yassi Kavezade, Sierra Club Organizing Representative. “Families in San Bernardino are already breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation. The only way to ensure that we receive robust mitigation and solutions for our air pollution woes is through a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement.”
“The air pollution problem in the Inland Empire is a stark health issue for families and the massive Eastgate terminal proposed for the San Bernardino Airport will only make that worse by pumping out about one ton of air pollution every day,” said Adrian Martinez, staff attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “We applaud Attorney General Becerra for stepping in to bring justice to this issue and to the community. After seeing a series of actions from the FAA, the airport authority, and the developer to sideline the community’s very real concerns about their health, we’re looking forward to the Attorney General’s office fighting for a livable future for San Bernardino residents.”
“We believe that the FAA, SBIAA, and Hillwood broke the law in moving forward with Eastgate,” said Randy Korgan, Secretary Treasurer at Teamsters Local 1932. “Communities surrounding the airport — largely composed of working class residents who must daily deal with polluting trucks and low wage jobs brought forward by industry — deserve better.”
This lawsuit was filed by the Bureau of Environmental Justice, which was established by Attorney General Becerra on February 22, 2018. The Bureau’s mission is to protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.