Earthjustice

06/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2024 18:26

Community Fights For Clean Air, Challenges Bloomington Warehouse In Court

June 21, 2024

Community Fights For Clean Air, Challenges Bloomington Warehouse In Court

Predominantly working class Latino community targeted with a disproportionate number of industrial projects

Contacts

Miranda Fox, Earthjustice, (415) 283-2324, [email protected]

Alicia Aguayo, People's Collective for Environmental Justice, (909) 248-3885, [email protected]

Ana Gonzalez, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, (909) 275-9812, [email protected]

Wendy Leung, Center for Biological Diversity, (818) 625-3128, [email protected]

Mary Ann Ruiz, Sierra Club, [email protected]

Maria Sundeen, Western Center on Law & Poverty, [email protected]

Bloomington, CA-

A Superior Court judge for San Bernardino County will hear arguments today from concerned community and environmental groups who are challenging the County's approval of a 213-acre Bloomington Business Park. If constructed as planned, industrial operations will bring additional pollution to a predominantly working class Latino community that is already overburdened by similar warehouse developments. In the process, over 100 households will be displaced, and once constructed, the nearest residence will sit only 11 feet away from the project.

Bloomington historically is a rural, agricultural, and ranching area where locals ride horses around the community. Today, warehouses have transformed the neighborhood into an industrial landscape where trucks barrel down residential streets.

"As someone who grew up in this community, witnessing the rich culture of my community, I've seen how the warehouses have changed a lot here. Many of us are concerned about being exposed to more and more pollution when the project is being put closer to our homes and schools," said Daniela Vargas, a resident and former student of Bloomington High School.

Despite being only six square miles in size, Bloomington has been targeted with a disproportionate number of industrial projects and is also boxed in by industrial polluting facilities located in neighboring cities, attracting trucks that transport these goods to and from the region's growing warehouse, storage, and distribution facilities.

Earthjustice is representing People's Collective for Environmental Justice, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and Center for Biological Diversity, in a suit joined by Sierra Club, filed in December 2022 against the County of San Bernardino for its failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and fair housing laws. The Bloomington Business Park would add nearly 1,300 diesel truck trips per day to an area already referred to as a "diesel death zone." An influx of other massive warehouses in the region contribute to the new project area's overall pollution burden that is 94% higher than the rest of California.

"Howard Industrial Partners, the developer responsible for the destruction of our community, asked residents' opinions of the proposed development. The options they provided were: 'Yes, I support the project' and 'Yes, I would like more information.' The County approved this as genuine outreach," said Joaquin Castillejos, a resident and organizing coordinator at Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. "This exemplifies the reality of the county's entire approach in Bloomington: insincere outreach efforts, causing confusion in the community, and excluding many residents from the decision-making process due to language barriers and accessibility issues."

CEQA is all about public participation so that those who will be affected by a proposed project know the extent of its impacts. "The process was flawed, with residents unable to fully participate because the County refused to translate key documents and provide consistent interpreters for meetings despite knowing that Bloomington is predominantly Spanish speaking," said Andrea Vidaurre, co-founder of the People's Collective for Environmental Justice and 2024 Goldman Environmental Prize winner.

Local land use decisions, including those made by the County, have dramatically transformed the landscape in recent years, as the number of industrial warehouses in San Bernardino and Riverside counties has multiplied from 162 in 1975 to 4,299 in 2021. The result is a logistics hub so large that it is visible from outer space. The Inland Empire's warehouse boom can be traced in part to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are primary entryways for imported goods to enter the region. Over 40% of the nation's goods come through the Inland Empire, fueling a logistics supply chain that is the largest driver of diesel pollution in southern California.

Mary Ann Ruiz, of the Sierra Club, says, "The Bloomington project will continue the pattern of warehouse development that has destroyed a rural, agricultural community, displacing residents and bringing harmful levels of pollution to the area."

"The County must stop approving warehouse projects without meaningfully engaging low-income communities of color like Bloomington. We must zealously ensure these freight developer projects comply with laws meant to protect communities. Because we believe this project falls woefully short of legal compliance, we are asking the Court to send this project back to square one," said Candice Youngblood, Earthjustice attorney who will argue significant portions of the case.

"County leaders need to take a hard look at their role in rubber-stamping more and more warehouse projects, especially in communities that already breathe some of the worst air in the country," said Frances Tinney, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Knowing what we know now about the harms of warehouses, it's a terrible idea to keep greenlighting projects that will send heavy-duty trucks past homes and schools without considering the consequences to the Inland Empire and the planet."

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.