Southern California Regional Airport Plan Is Challenged in Lawsuit

MAY 11, 2001

The El Toro Reuse Planning Authority (ETRPA) filed suit today against the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), challenging the planning group's recently adopted "2001 Regional Transportation Plan Update."

In its suit ETRPA claims that SCAG violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by consistently and repeatedly misstating and underreporting the significant adverse environmental impacts of the projects described in the plan.

The SCAG Regional Transportation Plan Update (RTP) calls for a Southern California regional airport system that would limit LAX to 78 million air passengers, limit John Wayne to 8.9 million and provide a new airport at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station with 30 million annual passengers. This plan would thus have Orange County serve a total of 38.9 million passengers annually, even though it is the smallest county in Southern California.

It also calls for virtually no air passenger service at the regions' newest airports in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles Counties, where most of the significant population growth will occur -- March, Norton, Victorville, and Palmdale.

According to ETRPA, SCAG's environmental impact report for its plan is deeply flawed. For example, SCAG included a 30 million passenger-per-year airport at El Toro as part of the "No Project Alternative" -- implying that such an airport currently exists at El Toro. Consequently, in all of its analyses it assumed the existence of such an airport as part of the baseline conditions for measuring environmental impacts. In reality, no airport or any aviation use exists at El Toro.

"SCAG's fantasy baseline artificially minimizes the impacts of the regional transportation plan especially regarding air pollution, toxic air contaminants, noise and traffic," said ETRPA's attorney, Richard Jacobs.

ETRPA claims the EIR fails to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives including the highly probable alternative of no airport at El Toro, constrained activity at Los Angeles International Airport and appropriate service levels in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles counties, where most of the region's growth will occur.

These logical alternatives were presented to SCAG but ignored in the EIR, even though they would provide a similar total level of service. More importantly, these alternatives conform with SCAG's policy of locating or expanding airports consistent with regional growth patterns.

According to Paul D. Eckles, executive director of ETRPA, "This SCAG EIR is being used as justification for an irrational expansion of airports and roads leading to them, in highly urbanized areas. It underreports the impacts that will be imposed on local communities and potentially threatens to waste billions of federal transportation dollars on projects with no more merit than if they were designed on the back of a cocktail napkin."

Source: Business Wire