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Attorney General Bonta: Moreno Valley General Plan Would Exacerbate Pollution Burden in Environmental Justice Communities

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today intervened in a lawsuit challenging Moreno Valley’s 2040 General Plan for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The General Plan, which is the city’s primary document for long-term land use planning, sets out to increase development in Moreno Valley, particularly in western Moreno Valley, which is already home to dozens of large scale warehouses and some of the worst air pollution in the state. In the petition, Attorney General Bonta argues that Moreno Valley’s environmental review did not adequately analyze, disclose, and mitigate the air pollution that would be generated from buildout of the 2040 General Plan as required by CEQA.

“Moreno Valley should be working to address existing environmental inequities in the city’s western region. Instead, its 2040 General Plan exacerbates them,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Communities in Moreno Valley experience some of the highest levels of air pollution in the state. We're intervening today so that those communities do not continue to bear the brunt of poor land use decisions that site warehouses outside their doors. At the California Department of Justice, we're fighting day in and day out for communities who live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. Economic development and environmental justice are not mutually exclusive, and we're committed to helping local governments find a sustainable path forward.” 

Moreno Valley is an Inland Empire city of over 210,000 people located in the western portion of Riverside County. The city’s population is approximately 85% people of color, and a disproportionate percentage of the city’s Hispanic and Latino population resides in the west side of Moreno Valley, where much of the current industrial development is concentrated. According to CalEnviroScreen, Moreno Valley ranks among the highest in the state for ozone pollution. Ozone exposure — smog — is associated with decreases in lung function, worsening of asthma, increases in hospital admissions, and a higher death rate. 

In the petition, Attorney General Bonta argues that Moreno Valley did not fully account for and mitigate the environmental and public health consequences of its General Plan. Specifically, Moreno Valley fails to:

  • Compare the General Plan’s air quality impacts against a proper environmental baseline, which is typically defined as “the physical environmental conditions as they exist at the time” of project approval;
  • Evaluate whether the General Plan would lead to a significant, cumulative increase in pollutants like ozone and particulate matter, which impacts whether the region can meet state and federal air quality standards; and
  • Consider whether the General Plan would increase pollution near schools, hospitals, and other sensitive sites or otherwise negatively impact the surrounding communities.

Moreno Valley’s Climate Action Plan also contains unenforceable measures that fall short of what is required to mitigate the General Plan’s anticipated greenhouse gas impacts.    

Earlier this year, Attorney General Bonta secured an innovative settlement in the neighboring town of Fontana to address CEQA violations associated with the Slover and Oleander warehouse project. As part of the settlement, the city of Fontana adopted an ordinance setting stringent environmental standards for all future warehouse development in Fontana. Requirements for new warehouse projects include site designs to keep trucks away from sensitive sites such as schools and hospitals, promotion of zero-emission vehicles for on-site operations, landscaped buffers, installation of solar panels, and use of environmentally friendly building materials. This settlement is a model for how local governments can support development in their region while also considering — and working to mitigate — impacts to local communities.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to fighting environmental injustices throughout the state of California and being a voice for frontline communities who are all too often under-resourced and overburdened. On April 28, 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the expansion of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice. The Bureau of Environmental Justice has reviewed a substantial number of warehouse projects across the state and collected best practices and mitigation measures to assist local governments in complying with CEQA and to promote environmentally-just warehouse development across California. These best practices are available here. More information on the Bureau and its work is available here

A copy of the Moreno Valley petition can be found here.