For Immediate Release: May 11, 2011
Media Contact: Jennifer Bowles · 951.826.8480 · jennifer.bowles@BBKlaw.com
LOS ANGELES _ A Superior Court judge ruled this week against Duarte in its legal battle to stop a rock mining operation from moving closer to its border with Azusa, saying that Duarte failed to prove that environmental documents prepared by Azusa were flawed.
The judge, in siding with Azusa in a ruling issued Monday, said the city’s environmental impact report detailing the shift in mining operations was legal , reasonable and detailed, and that Azusa did not violate open meeting laws or its own city rules when approving the project.
“An environmental impact report must inform decision makers and the public what the expected impacts will be from a proposed project. The report did just that and we are glad the judge confirmed it,” said Michelle Ouellette, a Best Best & Krieger attorney who advised the city in preparing its environmental impact report required under the California Environmental Quality Act.
At issue in the case is an effort by Vulcan Materials to move its mining operations from one portion of its 270 acre property in Azusa to another portion that borders Duarte. Vulcan Materials and its predecessors have been mining rocks, sand and gravel in Fish Canyon since before World War II.
Duarte challenged the environmental impact report on several grounds, all of which were dismissed by the judge. In one instance, Duarte alleged that air quality impacts associated with the blasting at the mine were not adequately addressed.
Judge Thomas I. McKnew said the environmental impact report used the correct operational thresholds established by regional air quality regulators, whom the judge noted also reviewed the methodology and concluded that it showed less than significant project impacts.
“The response was reasonable and more than adequate,” the judge said.
The judge also said Duarte’s argument that the biological resources along Fish Creek will be disturbed were “misplaced.” He noted the trail to be used for the mining operations will be constructed in already heavily disturbed areas and will avoid any impacts to the creek or riparian vegetation.
Duarte also accused members of the Azusa City Council of violating the Brown Act and the City’s Municipal Code while reconsidering a decision to approve the project last summer. But the judge praised the Azusa City Council for taking an “abundance of caution” in affording maximum public participation by voting to table its decision and to hold new public hearings.
“Azusa’s actions more than satisfy the intent of the Brown act: i.e. open and transparent government,” the judge wrote in his seven-page ruling.
Further, the judge said that Duarte “mischaracterized” action taken by Azusa last June 21 when the item to approve the project was placed on the agenda. The judge said the action did not violate the city’s municipal code.
“We take transparency and openness very seriously in Azusa and the judge acknowledged that,” said Sonia R. Carvalho, a BB&K attorney who serves as the Azusa city attorney.