11.19.2009

Paykeeper Pete BS

Sneaky Paykeeper Pete's My Word: ◼ Clearing the air
And the response ◼ Humboldt Baykeeper should come clean about the Marina Center

It is time to clear the air of the confusion around the environmental community's apparent lack of desire to see Eureka's Balloon Track property cleaned up. Let me be clear, Humboldt Baykeeper, and other environmental groups, want nothing more than to have the Balloon Track cleaned up to the fullest extent for the health of our bay and community. Period. In fact, Humboldt Baykeeper has worked longer and put more time into getting that property truly cleaned up than anyone else.

At the heart of the issue is the Supplemental Remedial Action Plan (SIRAP) put forth by Security National (CUE VI) -- a plan which will not accomplish the goal of clean-up of the Balloon Track. Security National is attempting to slip through a sham cleanup for the Balloon Track, skirting applicable environmental laws, such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Coastal Act, and the city of Eureka appears to be assisting them in this attempt. It is highly unlikely that these actions will pass muster with the California Coastal Commission, which will be the next governmental body to weigh in on this matter.

The city of Eureka has had many opportunities over the past 20 years to take on Union Pacific over the contamination at the Balloon Track, but the city never had the intestinal fortitude to follow through with any action. Nearly four years ago, Humboldt Baykeeper alone stood-up and took on Union Pacific with a lawsuit, enforcing federal environmental laws, to force them to clean-up the Balloon Track so it could be redeveloped and utilized by the community as it is zoned, for “public use.”

Security National has since purchased the property, inheriting the lawsuit along with it, and now has essentially legally and financially shielded Union Pacific from any liability for clean-up. It is important to note that the decision to purchase this property was made knowing full well that the property is contaminated, and Security National is now a responsible party for the cleanup. Humboldt Baykeeper has every intention of holding Security National, as well as Union Pacific, responsible for a full characterization and clean-up of the property.

It has always been the contention of Humboldt Baykeeper that Security National can build whatever they like on the Balloon Track site as long it is fully characterized and cleaned up, and as long as they comply with all provisions of the law. What Security National cannot do is sidestep the law and public process to ram through piecemeal actions on their way to an inadequate cleanup in an effort to achieve their end goal.

The greenwashing of their project with pleas to “just let us get started” to cleanup the property is a transparent tactic. Humboldt Baykeeper has been asking Security National to do just that for years and we would step aside tomorrow if Security National would really do the right thing for the environment: fully characterize and cleanup the Balloon Track. It is truly that easy.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a cloud of influence that hangs darkly over the city of Eureka. I find it disturbing that the city has agreed to a generous “indemnification” agreement with Security National for any legal liability regarding the Marina Center project. This essentially hands the keys to the city of Eureka over to Security National regarding all things Marina Center.

This is unfortunate. The city of Eureka as lead agency for this project is charged by state law with requiring that environmental review of the project meets all of the requirements of CEQA. If Councilman Leonard, and others, truly believes that the FEIR they certified to under CEQA is one of the best he has ever seen, then why not be bold enough to defend it? Isn't that why they are elected in the first place?

Instead, Mr. Leonard and the council voted to certify what they know is an inadequate FEIR and then pleaded with environmental groups to “cease fire” on lawsuits for six months. If Mr. Leonard had as much of a grasp on CEQA as he proclaims, he would know that an individual or organization has only 30 days to legally challenge a project under CEQA.

If the City Council truly wanted a 6-month cease fire, they should have recirculated the FEIR and repaired the major flaws in the document as was repeatedly recommended by Baykeeper and others. The city had plenty of time to consider the ramifications of their action and will most certainly be informed by the courts that their environmental review of the Marina Center is woefully inadequate and incomplete.

Humboldt Baykeeper will continue to demand full characterization and cleanup of the Balloon Track. We have every intention of completing what we started four years ago for the health of the bay and the community. I am more than happy to talk with anyone about our actions and Humboldt Baykeeper's work to cleanup the property. I can be reached at 268-0664.
Pete Nichols is the executive director of Baykeeper.