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Attorney General Bonta, CARB Seek to Defend Rule Limiting Warehouse Pollution in Disadvantaged Los Angeles and Inland Empire Communities

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) today filed a motion to intervene in support of South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (Air District) rule requiring warehouses to reduce emissions from heavy sources of on-road pollution that visit those warehouses. The Air District’s rule regulates these “indirect sources” by requiring owners and operators of some of the largest warehouses in the state to take direct action to mitigate their emissions. This will reduce air pollution in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, help California meet state and federal air quality standards, improve the health of our communities, and promote environmental justice. Last month, the California Trucking Association filed a lawsuit challenging the rule as outside the scope of the Air District’s authority, preempted by federal law, and an unlawful tax. In defending the rule, Attorney General Bonta and CARB expect to argue that these claims are meritless and that state and federal law supports the Air District’s authority to adopt the Indirect Source Rule.

“California has long been a pioneer in the fight against climate change – and the Air District’s rule limiting warehouse pollution is no exception,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The fact is: environmental justice and economic development are not mutually exclusive. There is no binary choice here. The Air District’s Indirect Source Rule will have tremendous benefits for those communities hardest hit by pollution, at a relatively low cost to industry. Today, I’m proud to stand in support of this effort to tackle the climate crisis and protect the health of Inland Empire and Los Angeles communities.”

“This is an environmental justice and public health issue,” said CARB Chair Liane M. Randolph. “The communities around these huge warehouse facilities have suffered for years from the effects of businesses and freight haulers who have all but ignored the community impacts of their enterprises. This Indirect Source Rule simply requires them to be much better neighbors. The rule is also part and parcel of local clean air plans developed under Assembly Bill 617 with CARB and South Coast staff, local residents, local businesses and other stakeholders to clean the air in and around these high-traffic routes and locations.”

In recent years, the proliferation of e-commerce and rising consumer expectations of rapid shipping have contributed to a boom in warehouse development, particularly in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, as consumers have shifted away from in-person retail shopping. Unfortunately, the distribution of warehouse facilities — and resulting pollution — has occurred primarily in low-income communities and communities of color. Once a new warehouse is built, the facilities and their associated activities, such as truck traffic, can cause a variety of negative impacts affecting public health. For example, diesel trucks visiting warehouses are substantial sources of nitrogen oxide — a primary precursor to smog formation that has been linked to respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and lung irritation — and diesel particulate matter — a contributor to cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and premature death.

The Air District’s Indirect Source Rule requires existing and new warehouse facilities larger than 100,000 square feet to select from a menu of emissions-reducing activities, such as purchasing zero-emission vehicles, installing air filtration systems in nearby residences, and constructing rooftop solar panels. The rule is projected to create up to $2.7 billion in public health benefits, far outweighing industry’s projected compliance costs. In just a decade, the rule is expected to prevent up to 300 deaths, 5,800 asthma attacks, and 20,000 lost work days. These benefits will predominately go to communities that have been most impacted by warehouse development, which are overwhelmingly communities of color and low-income communities.

In defending the rule, Attorney General Bonta and CARB expect to argue that:

  • The Air District’s Indirect Source Rule fulfills its prior commitment to control indirect source emissions from warehouses;
  • State and federal law provides the Air District with the legal authority to adopt the Indirect Source Rule;
  • The Indirect Source Rule does not include an illegal tax; and
  • The California Trucking Association’s arguments to the contrary misinterpret the law.

A copy of the motion is available here.