Court Invalidates City of Banning’s Approval of Controversial Black Bench Development Next to San Bernardino Mountains
Contact: Matthew Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 309
RIVERSIDE, Calif.– Today Judge Cahraman of the Riverside Superior Court invalidated the City of Banning’s approval of an environmental impact report for the sprawling Black Bench project, which would place over 1,400 new houses on undeveloped grasslands and chaparral at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains remote from Banning’s core. The environmental impact report was struck down on nine separate grounds, including the failure to provide substantial evidence that there is an adequate water supply for the project, the improper rejection of project alternatives, and the improper deferral of the designation of an access road to the project site.
“Overall, this is a resounding victory for the petitioners,” said Matt Vespa of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court’s wide ranging repudiation of the environmental impact report makes it unlikely that this environmentally damaging project will move forward anytime in the foreseeable future.”
This case was also the first to squarely challenge am environmental impact report for a failure to consider the environmental impact of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Court declined to invalidate this EIR on the grounds that “no law required the Banning City Council to consider global warming at the time it approved the project.”
“We disagree with the court’s decision on this issue,” said Matt Vespa of the Center for Biological Diversity. “However, as a practical matter, if the project proponents ever do re-submit this project for approval, its greenhouse gas emissions will need to be analyzed at that time, since the legislature has now clarified the need for review.”
Since the City of Banning case was filed, the California legislature passed SB 97 (2007), which recognized that an analysis of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions is required under the California Environmental Quality Act. In addition, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association has provided guidance to local agencies on how to analyze and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, the court’s reasoning in City of Banning is inapplicable to current project approvals because it has since been recognized that an analysis of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions is required under the California Environmental Quality Act. Environmental impact reports now routinely consider greenhouse gas emissions from proposed projects.