Experts and Residents Warn Visalia City Leaders: Don’t Rubber Stamp VWR Project
Visalia City Council Questioned on Tax Increases, Warned of Environmental and Public Health Threats from New Facility and Urged to Conduct Full Environmental Study
VISALIA, Calif., Dec. 20, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Environmental and legal experts urged Visalia City Council members today to conduct a full environmental impact study pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before rubber stamping VWR’s planned 500,000 square foot medical equipment and chemical supply distribution center. VWR is owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.
Visalia residents attending tonight’s city council meeting also voiced concerns about the impact the new facility — which could introduce an estimated 5,000 truck trips a day carrying medical supplies, hazardous chemicals and other equipment on Visalia streets — will have on traffic, air quality, and higher taxes for residents and small business owners.
Matt Hagemann, former director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program for the Western United States, submitted expert testimony on the impacts of greenhouse gases and hazardous materials from the truck volume into and out of the facility VWR wants to build. While Hagemann worked at the EPA, VWR had several accidental spills and chemical leaks. Tonight, Hagemann argued that the plans for the facility require CEQA review so that the city can impose appropriate mitigation measures to prevent similar accidents in the future.
A coalition of environmental, tax and labor groups presented the City Council with testimony from noted environmental lawyer Richard Drury who reports that using standard Institute for Traffic Engineers calculations, this project should generate 5000 truck trips per day.
“We understand that the city may be relying on an outdated CEQA declaration from 2007,” Drury said. “We believe that such reliance is inappropriate because circumstances have changed significantly since then. In particular, the city has recently approved major development plans that will add traffic, air pollution and congestion. Also, new impacts such as greenhouse gases are now required to be analyzed under CEQA. These impacts were not analyzed in 2007. A new CEQA review is therefore required.”
Both experts recommended that the Visalia City Council follow CEQA regulations and submit the facility plans for environmental review before approving the use of taxpayer money to begin street mitigation measures for the facility. Angry Visalia residents also asked if local taxes would rise because of millions of dollars of improvements and tax giveaways city officials promised in order to lure the 500,000 square foot facility.
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