Archive for November, 2009

Highway Pollution and its Devastating Impacts on Local Communities


By Adrian Martinez, Project Attorney, Southern California Air Team, NRDC, Santa Monica Posted on Thursday 12th November 2009

A new study about the staggering impacts of highway and ship pollution was released by a team of scientists and academics, including some of the most pioneering researchers on issues of health related impacts from degraded air quality. The study provides a localized look at the impacts of air pollution, especially from freight facilities. Using the health indicator of childhood asthma, the study examines how much proximity to traffic and pollution from ship emissions drive asthma incidents. The communities chosen were Long Beach, an area that has long been on the front lines of the battle to protect community health from the massive quantities of air pollution spewed by the nation’s two largest ports (the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach), and Riverside, a community that has become home to sprawling warehouses that serve as magnets for thousands upon thousands of diesel trucks rumbling through this community each and every day. The results of this study should be a wake-up call to the enablers of massive freight expansion who don’t deal with all the negative consequences.

Rob McConnell, principal investigator on the study and professor of preventative medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, noted recently that:

The traditional approach to estimating the burden of air pollution-related disease has markedly underestimated the true effect…Our results indicate that there is a substantial proportion of childhood asthma that may be caused by living within 75 meters (81 yards) of a major road in Long Beach and Riverside. This results in a much larger impact of air pollution on asthma symptoms and health care use than previously appreciated. This is also one of the first studies to quantify the contribution of ship emissions to the childhood asthma burden.

In fact, NRDC, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the Coalition for a Safe Environment and the Endangered Habitats League are currently mired in litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Southern California Association of Governments on the issue of protecting the 1.5 million near highway residents in the Los Angeles area from harmful air pollution impacts. Read more about that effort here.

The study also found that 21% of all asthma incidents in Long Beach were caused by the contribution of nitrogen dioxide levels from ships. As shipping interests have fought relentlessly against efforts to clean up their filthy engines and fuels over the decades, this fact becomes even more disturbing.

This study reminds us that unfettered economic exploitation of an area can have immense consequences on local health, including our most important populations–children. Freight and public health protections can coincide, but we need to end the industry obstructionism and lack of forward thinking that is currently infecting our decision-makers. Efforts such as pushing forward with alternative transportation systems championed by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s push for electrification of our rail lines are the types of efforts we need to keep moving forward. Highway widening projects (e.g. the proposed 14 lane expansion of the I-710 and the State Route 47 project, which creates a new diesel highway in the City of Wilmington) that ignore these near-highway communities should not be given so much attention.

All in all, the study ended with some very useful commentary on the application of the results of this study. It stated–

Our results demonstrate that the burden of asthma prevalence and exacerbation caused by traffic proximity can be substantial in communities with large numbers of homes in close proximity to major roadways. There is an urgent need for more detailed evaluation of the health consequences both of large-scale transportation infrastructure development and of port-related air pollution in areas that already have a high burden of disease associated with air pollution.
This should provide a call to action for all transportation planners that seek to expand freight facilities (e.g. the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, the California Department of Transportation, and other agencies). Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District must also implement policies to protect these most vulnerable near-highway communities from the deleterious impacts of air pollution. Business as usual is not working, and if we are going to expand, these projects must embrace modern low pollution technologies. If we fail in this respect, our future generations will end up spending too much time sucking on inhalers and in the hospital instead of schools. This is an untenable result.

* * * This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard.

Adrian Martinez serves as a project attorney for The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Southern California Air Team in Santa Monica, Calif. NRDC is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the environment, people and animals. NRDC was founded in 1970 and is comprised of more than 300 lawyers, scientists and policy experts, with more than one million members and e-activists.



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Gateway & the ALR – Part 4 – The Delta Boys

Attached are the articles about the Delta boys, from Equity magazine

A couple of interesting side notes are Campbell’s efforts to secure the influence of the Delta Boys – last year he gave the Delta Farmers’ Institute a provincial government heritage agriculture award, and a few months before that he gave Ron Toigo a Queen’s Medallion for community service (for the Vancouver Giants’ – which is a business, not a volunteer effort) in the middle of the battle over the Tsawwassen Golf Course ALR exclusion.

I know that Vicki Huntington and Harold Steves have both been approached by some of the farmers, but the power of the Delta boys is so great, they can make life very unhappy for opponents, that it is really difficult to get them to speak publicly.

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Gateway & Farmland – Part 3 – Overpass information a better way

The ALC issued its approval of SFPR in December of 2008. The only people who were involved in the consultations – who had any voice in the matter – were the farmers directly on the route and a couple of other people from the Delta Farmers Institute.

In January and February 2009, the ALC very quietly approved further farmland handovers for rail expansion and the railway over pass.

In the past couple of weeks, the Farmland Defence League have learned that none of the farmers affected by these decisions were ever consulted. There was ZERO public consultation process – these farmland losses were not included in the farmland losses reported under SFPR (although they are directly related to the Gateway expansions and should have been included in both agricultural and environmental cumulative impact assessments).

We have a blatant conspiracy between the Campbell government and the ALC to subvert due public process. The BC Rail staff report indicates that the applications were received by the Commission in 2007 – but the Commission waited until the SFPR approval had gone through and then, without so much as the customary signage to alert the community, the farmland was approved for development.

If the federal government were aware of these additional features of the Gateway Project, then they were complicit in the conspiracy by failing to include them in the federal cumulative environmental impact assessment.

Below is some information provided by one of our Delta directors:

below is from the minutes of the Delta Council Meeting of January 12, 2009. The referenced report and attachments can be found the Corporation of Delta website.

If the following link opens for you, simply click on 2009 Regular Council, then scroll down and click on January 12, 2009. The subject is the first item. Click on A01. That will give you the report. To get the Attachments, click on them at the end of the report.

If the link does not open, simply Google: Corporation of Delta. Then click on Mayor and Council on right top area. Then scroll down and click on Regular Council Meeting Agendas. Then follow the instructions above.

The report, attachments and minutes of January 12, 2009 Delta Council Meeting reveal all about the 28th Avenue overpass. It confirms the significant role of the ALC in moving the Gateway agenda forward.

These discussions took place after approval of the SFPR.

The minutes also confirm that the property owners were not consulted.

Mr. Savage responded to a Council question relative to potential impact on nearby property owners, noting it would be advisable to complete the 28th Street overpass as quickly as possible and that to his knowledge discussions had not been held with the property owners.

A report was given to Delta Council at their meeting of January 12, 2009. The Report and Attachments are attached to this email. There is a long history. I copy and pasted the report into Word. To me it looks like a lot of deliberation behind the scenes. This should have been included in the assessment of the SFPR, especially cumulative effects.

The following is from the Minutes of the January 12th, 2009 Delta Council Meeting.

41B St and 28 Ave Overpasses – ALC (A.01) Report by the Engineering Department dated December 22, 2008 regarding 41B Street and 28 Avenue Overpasses – Agricultural Land Commission. (File:

Representatives from the Delta Farmers’ Institute (DFI) were in attendance.

Tim Murphy, Roads and Transportation Manager, provided a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history of this project and development of the conceptual design of the overpasses.
Mr. Murphy noted the proposed 41B Street overpass is envisioned as a one quadrant interchange in response to comments from the DFI, who had suggested the road be as straight as possible to assist in maneuvering farm equipment.
Diagrams of existing traffic patterns, current farm traffic routes and proposed future agricultural roads were shown, as well as alternate improvements required to meet traffic requirements.
Mr. Murphy provided the following information:

  • 41B Street is an important route for the farming community.
  • An overpass at 41B Street should be constructed and the design should consider future travel demands.
  • Port Metro Vancouver and BC Rail wish to close a segment of 57B Street south of Deltaport Way.
  • Prior to this closure, the 57B Street rail crossing will be equipped with signalization, which will delay farm traffic.
  • An overpass at 28th Avenue would provide an alternative route for the agricultural road network, once 57B Street is closed on the south side of Deltaport Way.
John Savage, on behalf of DFI, expressed his appreciation for the time and effort put forth on these proposals and advised the DFI is in support of staff’s recommendations.
MOVED By Cllr. Hawksworth,
  1. THAT support for a 28th Avenue Overpass of Highway #17 be reaffirmed.
  1. THAT an overpass at 41B Street and Deltaport Way be generally supported at this time, subject to confirmation of the integration of the planned Tsawwassen First Nation’s Road Network Plan with Delta’s Road Network.
  1. THAT further developments of the conceptual design for the 41B Street overpass minimize long term consumption of agricultural land as well as include provision for the future travel needs of the Tsawwassen First Nation, including provision for a higher capacity interchange which provides free flow movements in consideration of anticipated future traffic generation from planned industrial lands and Deltaport.
  1. THAT staff respond to the Agricultural Land Commission with these comments.
In response to a Council query, staff advised the Tsawwassen First Nation had indicated support for the 41B overpass at a recent meeting with key agency stakeholders. While 41B Street had been indicated as a major access route in the TFN’s draft Official Community Plan, a planning study, including the review of road network needs, is currently underway which may affect the final design.
Mr. Savage responded to a Council question relative to potential impact on nearby property owners, noting it would be advisable to complete the 28th Street overpass as quickly as possible and that to his knowledge discussions had not been held with the property owners.
— Main Motion Amended MOVED By Cllr. Hawksworth, THAT Recommendation A of the Main Motion be amended to read:

A. THAT support for a 28th Avenue Overpass of Highway #17 be reaffirmed as a priority, that it be funded by Port Metro Vancouver, BC Rail and other senior government agencies, and that it be constructed prior to the closure of 57B Street and in conjunction with overpasses that will be constructed to support the South Fraser Perimeter Road, prior to the completion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.


— Recommendations Endorsed as Amended Question was called on the Main Motion, as amended.


Donna Passmore
Campaign Director
Farmland Defence League of BC
r) 604-536-2790

ALC Conditions Not Met.doc

BC Rail Staff Report Jan 2009.pdf

BC Rail Decision – February 4 2009.pdf

Delta – Gateway Rail Overpass Jan 2009.pdf

Delta – Gateway Rail Overpass Jan 2009 – decision.pdf

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Gateway & Farmland – Part 2

On May 2, 2006, then Minister of Agriculture, Pat Bell rescinded the appointment of Bill Jones to the South Coast Panel of the Agricultural Land Commission because Mr. Jones had made a comment on an exclusion application. In rescinding the appointment, Minister Bell stated, “Keeping in mind that the Agricultural Land Commission is a quasi –judicial body, and we need to ensure that it is being seen as an impartial body…”

The ALC only introduced its Conflict of Interest guidelines in March, when one of the panelists was found to be in direct conflict of interest and a decision of the Commission had to be reversed. But the BC Crown Agency Accountability guidelines would have covered Karlsen before that, and I believe by those he is clearly in a conflict of interest.

Remember – Pat Bell rescinded Bill Jones’ appointment to the South Coast Panel 2006 because Jones had made statements supporting one proposal. Karlsen was one of the authors of what is the original Gateway Project, and he is in a wildly obvious conflict of interest.

it appears that with the exception of 3 or 4 caucus members, the BC NDP under Carol James are simply not willing to fight for farmland.

So Campbell gets a Gateway supporter ensconsed as Chair of the Commission, he stacks the panels with party loyalists, like John Tomlinson (Langley Chamber of Commerce)…

I’ll attach to the next email the article “the Delta Boys” – which is as relevant today as it was back when Spedifore lands were removed from the ALR. A couple of the names have changed, but that’s all. They are still Socred/Liberal community power brokers, including John Savage and Ron Toigo. This impact of these good ol boys on the politics of farming is such that most of the farmers in Delta are terrified to speak up.

Enter lawyer and cranberry farmer Ralph May. Member of the Liberal Party executive in Richmond, but active in Delta because he has cranberry farms there.

Tony Pellett of the ALC told me that the Gateway Project was good for farming, because the province was putting money into drainage and dyking. When we gave Green Party Leader Jane Sterk a tour of the SFPR last year we visited the Hamming Farm. The Hammings told me that the Gateway mitigation measures will have no benefit for most Delta farmers, but will be of benefit to “a select few”. Harold Steves – who considers Ralph May a friend, they have been fellow Richmond farmers for many years and there is no ill will involved – says that the May cranberry farms benefits the most.

That’s a problem, given that May was the negotiator with the province on behalf of the farmers.

The Commission is supposed to operate at an arms’ length from the government. Yet, when Larry Pynn wrote the attached piece pointing out that the Gateway boys had started construction even before the Commission had ruled, the Commission issued its decision later that day.

Farmers along SFPR.pdf

ALC Conditionally approves SFPR.pdf

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Gateway & Farmland (Part 1)

Not wanting to sound radical or alarmist, we’ve all been reluctant to use the “c” word. The evidence is simply overwhelming and we can no longer ignore the reality that the Agricultural Land Commission is conspiring with the Campbell government to destroy the ALR, and the Gateway Project is one of the key mechanisms.

Every fear that we have ever had about the Gateway Project’s impact on agriculture is coming true – but in mere months instead of years.

1. Erik Karlsen – The Gateway Project was announced on January 31, 2005. Erik Karlsen was hired as the Chair of the ALC on April 1, 2005. When Harold and I met with the Commission in mid-April, Erik was boasting about how he was on staff at the Lower Mainland Planning Board and helped write the “Delta Plan” back in 1968. He also indicated that he carries “the Delta Plan” around in his briefcase.

He further indicated (as he did during the FDL dinner in July 2008) that he felt sorry for the farmers who were locked into the ALR. (Damien – I desperately need that video clip, if you still have it).

The references to the Delta Plan didn’t mean anything to me – but they sure did to Harold. He went home and dug out his copy of the Plan and sure enough, there was Erik’s name.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Delta Plan is the short name for the Official Regional Plan proposed by regional staff back in 1968, and was one of the events that drove the creation of the ALR. It was, so to speak, the original Gateway plan – called for massive expansion of port and highways and industrialization through Delta. The 58 page report (and in the 2nd email, I’ll attach a few pages) makes only one reference to agriculture, and in the covering letter clearly indicates that the plan is seen as necessary to prevent “large land reserves”.

Although staff proposed “the Delta Plan”, the Lower Mainland Planning Board rejected it. The WAC Bennett government disbanded the Planning Board, a move that contributed to its defeat in the subsequent provincial election.

Since the ALR’s creation in 1973, any time a version of Gateway Project was floated, the ALC has rejected it, in keeping with its mandate.

It now appears Campbell had no intention of letting that happen, so he put in a Chair of the ALC who would facilitate Gateway.

I’m attaching a link from the BC Civil Liberties Association web page on conflict of interest, by which definition I believe Erik Karlsen has been in a clear conflict of interest.
Karlsen appointment news release.pdf
Our Southwestern Shores 1.pdf
Our Southwestern Shores – with staff list – 2.pdf
Our Southwestern Shores – summary – 3.pdf
Our Southwestern Shores 4.pdf

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News Release: BC Government Ignores Land Commission Conditions on SFPR

image001the Farmland Defence League of BC

For Immediate Release:

November 2, 2009


BC] The Agricultural Land Commission placed very minimal conditions last December on the approval it granted to the Campbell government to destroy 90 hectares of prime farmland in Delta for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, but the government has ignored even those conditions.


“The Ministry of Transportation started pre-filling immediately, and destroyed more than 70 acres, some of prime soil,” says Donna Passmore, Campaign Director for the Farmland Defence League. “The agricultural capability of the farms along Burns Bog will be classes 1-3, prime soils. On the threshold of a global food security crisis, it is criminal that this great soil was sacrificed to the government’s asphalt mentality.”

Photo of land between Highway 99 & Burns Bog

Photos taken by the Farmland Defence League reveal that the Ministry of Transportation didn’t even remove foliage, let alone top soil. Given that the top soil was not salvaged, it doesn’t appear that an agrologist was in place to oversee the removal.

“The Ministry of Transportation began prefilling immediately,” says Passmore. “it exhibited callous disregard for the Land Commission, food security and the 89% of British Columbians who have said no to paving farmland. Equally disturbing, it doesn’t appear the ALC bothered to monitor what was happening to this farmland.”

Established in 1978, the Farmland Defence League of BC is a province-wide network of groups and individuals advocating the protection of farmland and sustainable food systems.

– 30 –

For more information:

Donna Passmore 604-536-2790

Campaign Director

Donna Passmore

ALC Conditionally approves SFPR.pdf

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