The developer of the World Logistics Center and the environmentalist opponents who oppose it both say they’ve scored a victory this week regarding the proposed 40.6-million-square-foot warehouse complex.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, a Riverside County Court of Appeals judge said the groups’ appeal of a ruling against its 2015 legal challenge to the logistics center was moot. Developer Highland Fairview has abandoned its controversial plan to buy carbon offset credits, under California’s cap-and-trade program, to offset the air pollution expected to be generated by the complex, at the heart of the 2015 lawsuit.
On Friday, Oct. 30, Highland Fairview spokesman Eric Rose said the company was “very pleased” with the decision.
“No governmental agency has the last say on development projects in California, at the end, the courts make the final determination,” Rose wrote in an email. “This court of appeals decision is a significant step forward towards the project’s groundbreaking and the 33,000 jobs created by the project.”
The Moreno Valley City Council approved a revised Environmental Impact Report for the center at its June 16 meeting, abandoning the use of carbon offsets.
Aruna Prabhala, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the coalition of environmental groups that oppose the project, said Highland Fairview dropping carbon offsets for its mitigation plan is a win for Californians.
“For a lot of the petitioner groups, this appeal was really about the concern of the use of the cap-and-trade loophole and the implication it would have throughout the state if other developers used it,” Prabhala said.
When completed, the World Logistics Center would cover an area equal to about 700 football fields — about 10% of the land in the city. The warehouse complex would be south of the 60 Freeway, between Redlands Boulevard and Gilman Springs Road at Moreno Valley’s eastern boundary.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the World Logistics Center will generate 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, worsening air quality in the area. More than 14,000 truck trips would be made each day from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to Moreno Valley, more than 80 miles away.
Riverside County has the second-worst smog in the nation, according to an American Lung Association report released in April.
The carbon-offset program would have theoretically meant the air planet-wide would have been no dirtier after the project than before, but nearly all the benefits would be felt outside of Moreno Valley, as Highland Fairview would be purchasing credits from companies choosing not to pollute in their own locations, according to the Jurupa Valley-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.
The lawsuits have deterred other developers from trying something similar, according to Prabhala.
“We haven’t seen this approach, particularly not in this complete all-hands-on-deck approach that the World Logistics Center took,” she said. “And for us, that’s a really positive thing.”
The World Logistics Center project is still going forward, although the environmental groups have filed another suit, attacking the revised environmental report approved by the council.
“This in no way ends the legal hurdles for the project,” Prabhala said.
Highland Fairview would not have expected otherwise, according to Rose.
“No one is surprised that the environmental groups are never satisfied and always believe more should be done,” he wrote. The company has “designed the World Logistics Center project to have the highest environmental standards and protections in the nation; no other project of this kind and magnitude even comes close. Highland Fairview remains committed to the development of projects with the highest sustainability…