Calif. AG Asks Ninth Circuit to Rehear Approval of San Bernardino Amazon Airport Facility

On Monday, the state’s chief law enforcement officer Rob Bonta asked the Ninth Circuit to rehear a challenge to the airport expansion project which he said will pollute the surrounding area. Previously, a three-judge panel issued a split decision overriding questions about the decision-making process leading up to the approval of the Amazon facility, which includes a 685,000 square foot warehouse.  

The attorney general claimed that the project is poised to add at least one ton of toxic air pollution per day to the South Coast Air Basin, already the most polluted air basin in the country. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly approved the project in late 2019 over the objections of Bonta’s office, the local community, and environmental groups.

Bonta explained that people in South Coast Air Basin communities “are among the top 5% of Californians for the prevalence of asthma-related hospital visits, and among the top 3% for emergency room visits due to heart attacks.” This is because they disproportionately bear the negative environmental impacts of industry in the area, and would do so to an even greater degree with the proposed airport expansion and accompanying air and road traffic increase.

In its petition for rehearing, the state made several arguments. First, it said that the panel’s decision is inconsistent with Ninth Circuit precedent governing challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Similarly, the state argued that the decision conflicts with both Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent insofar as the approval rests on a “flawed environmental analysis where impacts are highly uncertain and controversial.” Finally, the request for rehearing argued that on a policy level, the decision presents questions of importance relating to transparency and environmental justice in the administrative process.