A new project to create two new oil storage tanks near the Port of Long Beach will go through an environmental impact review.

World Oil, which owns an oil storage facility at the port and seeks to expand, agreed to put the project through the assessment, a request made by two groups of environmental activists and local residents.

The new project would create two new storage tanks that could hold 25,000 barrels of oil each, 50,000 barrels in total, near the Port of Long Beach. The new storage tanks would add to the World Oil’s storage facility at the Port.

And while council members applauded World Oil for taking on an environmental impact report without any decision from the City Council, some encouraged them to be more connected with residents.

“It’s clear from the public comment that the next phase for you should include a more robust community outreach component,” Councilwoman Suzie Price said at the meeting.

The City Council, on Tuesday, was set to hear appeals from those two environmental groups, who argued a project of that scale needs an environmental impact report, raising concerns that new oil storage facilities would negatively impact air quality, local ecology and overall environmental health in the area.

“It was both a no-brainer and common sense that this was necessary,” said Julia May, a senior scientist at Communities for a Better Environment, at the meeting.

And Kartik Raj, a lawyer for Earthjustice, an environmental group, recently told this newsgroup: “Over its lifetime, it will emit over 200,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants.”

Though these new storage tanks will not be processing any oil, Raj said storage facilities can still emit chemicals including benzene, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say may cause cancer.

The Harbor Commission in October approved the project without an environmental impact report, saying it does not need such a report because it completed an initial study and negative declaration that would not cause significant environmental damage.

In a staff report, the Harbor Department maintained it did not need an environmental impact report for the project, and in response to the appeal said: “The studies referenced by The Coalition as evidence of the underestimation of (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions are just that–studies,” the staff report read. “They have not been approved by any regulatory agency for use in determining the significance of environmental impacts under CEQA.”

Other complaints, among others, are that the new project would create hazardous sludge, but the Harbor Department argues sludge wouldn’t pose a risk if it’s routinely transported and disposed.

And another is the project is not prepared to face a natural disaster an issue the Harbor Department also said it’s prepared for. Fears of such a disaster were rekindled by last week’s eruption of a volcano in the sea off Tonga, which set off tsunami advisories along the California coast.

But for residents already impacted by poor air quality, such as those in West Long Beach, Wilmington and Carson, an environmental impact report is the least the city and World Oil could do to make sure local residents are thoroughly protected, some said.

“I want to encourage the Council and Harbor Commission to give due diligence to those living in these areas,” said Chris Chavez, a Long Beach resident and deputy director of the Coalition For Clean Air, “and really make sure that we’re reducing emissions from this project.”

California

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