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American Shipper

L.A. port commission breaks moratorium on development

L.A. port commission breaks moratorium on development

Ending a self-imposed four-year development moratorium at the Southern California ports, Los Angeles port officials on Thursday approved environmental documents for the expansion of a container terminal at the port.

   The 4-0 vote, with one member absent, was the first such approval offered by the Los Angeles Harbor Commission since a 2002 lawsuit and subsequent settlement over another terminal project halted development at the port over fears of additional legal actions. Similar concerns over litigation halted development at the neighboring Port of Long Beach more than three years ago.

   By approving the more than 1,000-page port-generated Environmental Impact Report, the harbor board gave the go ahead for the expansion of the TraPac terminal, operated by the Trans Pacific Container Service Corp., at the port.

   The development plan still faces several major hurdles, including votes before the Los Angeles City Council and additional approvals and permits from federal, state and local agencies. But Thursday's approval paves the way to modernize berths at the 174-acre facility and expand its footprint to more than 240 acres. Efforts to upgrade the terminal have been in the works for more than a decade, with the most recent push being stalled in 2003 along with all other major port development. A backlog of more than a dozen major development projects between the two ports has developed since.

   In August, three shipping lines that call at the terminal announced plans to move to a facility at the Port of Long Beach in 2008, citing the lack of movement on development at the TraPac terminal as a main reason. The loss of the three lines, and their 12,000 TEUs of throughput, would cost the Los Angeles port upwards of $900,000 a month in revenue and potentially contribute to the port losing its title as the busiest container port in the nation to rival Long Beach.

   The EIR held a few surprises, including a determination that pollution from the port will increase in the near-term due to construction on the terminal project. Port officials also revealed that they had no way of cutting projected increases in greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, from the project.

   While heralded by many in the industry as a positive step toward increasing throughput and capacity at the port, Thursday's approval drew immediate jeers from some environmental groups.

   The Teamster-fronted Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, which includes the NRDC, issued a statement late Thursday night calling the TraPac EIR 'premature,' and blasting the two ports for their 'broken promises' and 'inaction' in implementing comprehensive air quality measures over the past year.

   'The TraPac expansion is a major undertaking that guarantees negative impacts on the environment and community health, especially in the near-term,' the CCSP statement said.

   The group also indicates that it will be reviewing the EIR closely 'within the next 30 days, the statutory deadline for legal recourse.' ' Keith Higginbotham

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