Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Finds Environmental Review of Santa Clarita Valley Plan Inadequate and Unacceptable

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said today that the draft Environmental Impact Report for the Santa Clarita Valley Area Plan violates state law because it proposes inadequate remedies for increased air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental degradation.

In a letter to the Los Angeles County planning office, Attorney General Harris said the plan “neither provides complete information about all significant environmental impacts, nor does it adequately describe feasible mitigation to lessen the harm to the environment” caused by the plan, dubbed One Valley, One Vision.

Because of its shortcomings, Attorney General Harris said, the report fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Santa Clarita Valley is an area of 250,000 people just above the San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles County astride I-5 near the Angeles National Forest. The One Valley, One Vision plan would allow a population of more than 450,000 by 2035.

The Attorney General’s letter points out that the construction allowed by the One Valley plan would roughly double the car and truck emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, which combine in the atmosphere to produce ozone. The increase would exacerbate “a severe, health-threatening air pollution problem” that already exists in the Santa Clarita Valley.

In 2008, ozone levels in the valley exceeded California standards on 81 days, especially troubling because children who are chronically exposed to ozone may suffer lifelong lung damage, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The EIR also concludes that land-use decisions proposed in the One Valley plan would double the amount of particulate matter, or soot, in the air, putting children at increased risk of lung problems and the elderly at increased risk of death from heart and lung disease.

Instead of proposing land-use changes to reduce the need to drive, the Attorney General’s letter points out, the One Valley plan will result in a 120 percent increase in driving trips – a million more trips than were made in 2004.

State law requires that when an EIR makes a finding of significant environmental harm, as it does with the One Valley plan, the local agency implementing the plan must take all feasible measures to reduce that harm or adopt alternatives that do less damage. But, the Attorney General’s letter said, the Santa Clarita EIR falls far short, citing only potential mitigation measures that are “unenforceable and vague” and merely suggest, rather than require, that the county reduce driving.

The Attorney General’s letter also criticizes the EIR for failing to fully disclose all the environmental harm the One Valley plan new housing and suburban sprawl would cause.

The letter is co-signed by Deputy Attorney General Susan L. Durbin.

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