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Richmond Settles Lawsuit Over Honda Project

After incurring delays and additional costs estimated at $2 million, including legal fees, the City of Richmond settled a lawsuit by Point Richmond resident Fred Arm challenging the EIR.

This is just one more example of how a bad EIR can result in substantial delays, damages and subversion of the public trust. See EIR Consultant Demands Retraction, January 29, 2009 and Thoughts on the Honda Port of Entry Project, November 20, 2008.

EIRs for major projects are frequently challenged legally in Richmond, and the challenges typically prevail or result in settlements that include mitigations that should have been part of the original EIR. Other projects in Richmond currently under legal challenge for EIRs include the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project and the Chevron Long Wharf Lease. The latter is under the jurisdiction of the State Lands Commission, not the City of Richmond.

The following is from the West County Times:

Richmond settles lawsuit over Honda project

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Posted: 03/25/2009 12:42:26 PM PDT

Updated: 03/25/2009 07:36:40 PM PDT

Richmond city leaders have reached a settlement agreement with a resident who filed a lawsuit to stop American Honda Motor Co. from moving at least 145,000 cars through the port each year.

Under the settlement, resident Fred Arm will withdraw his lawsuit, and the city will agree to prepare a port-wide clean-air action plan in two years and implement it with the help of a local advisory board and air-quality experts, City Attorney Scott Dickey said. In addition, the city is preparing another clean-air action plan specifically for the Honda project.

Auto Warehousing Co., which is leading the project, will cover $130,000 in Arm's attorney fees, Dickey said.

The agreement, which the City Council approved Tuesday night, is slated to be finalized today.

Dickey and Bradley Brownlow, Arm's attorney, said they are "pleased" with the agreement. Brownlow added that the air impacts were his client's primary concern.

The Honda project, approved in November, more than doubles the number of cars that will move through the port and is projected to create 200 jobs and boost revenue by $87.5 million over 15 years. City officials left open the option of extending the contract by 10 years. Crews plan to build a new rail yard at the Point Potrero Marine Terminal to load imported cars directly onto trains bound for the sales market.

Critics of the project had questioned whether enough measures were in place to reduce pollution. They also worried that trains ferrying imported cars would disrupt traffic at intersections and train horns tooting at night would disturb people.

Arm filed his lawsuit in December in Contra Costa Superior Court, saying officials failed to study the full environmental effects before signing off on the deal. Specifically, officials did not adequately analyze air emissions, traffic, noise and other effects, and did not factor in the maximum capacity of the loading tracks.

Operations from the Honda deal will generate a net 1,491 pounds of nitrogen oxides a day, surpassing the state standard of 80 pounds, according to the EIR. Nitrogen oxides emissions contribute to smog, which can irritate lungs, and are "significant and unavoidable, " the report found.

Project officials said models they use measure nitrogen oxide levels from 24 miles away, so most of the emissions will be beyond Richmond, said Bill Robbins with Auto Warehousing Co.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.