The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (AVAQMD) board voted unanimously Wednesday to send a letter of support to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to intervene to help keep Kinkisharyo International, L.L.C. from leaving Palmdale and building its permanent manufacturing facility outside of California.

In the letter, signed by board chairman Marvin Crist, the AVAQMD Governing Board urged the governor to “intervene in this matter to facilitate a resolution between Kinkisharyo and the local union backers of the potential challenge to ensure that this project can move forward in an expeditious fashion. Time is critical.”

Recently, Kinkisharyo announced that due to potential California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenges and delays by the IBEW backed and previously unknown group called Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development, it would not be able proceed with the construction of a new light rail car manufacturing facility in Palmdale.

However, in an attempt to stay in California, Kinkisharyo proposed to renovate an existing hangar in Palmdale, which is currently being used as the assembly site. Again, a CEQA challenge to the construction of a single paint booth was threatened in order to halt the project. This forced Kinkisharyo to look to an out of state for a site due to pressing contractual deadlines.

The AVAQMD letter addressed a number of important environmental advantages in keeping Kinkisharyo in Palmdale. “Over 65 percent of the emissions inventory in the area is generated by mobile sources,” the letter stated. “Many of these mobile emissions are created by the commute patterns of area residents as they make their way to jobs within the South Coast Air Basin. Locating jobs such as those provided by a new Kinkisharyo facility within the Antelope Valley would help reduce pollution by reducing overall vehicle miles traveled as workers commute mileage and time decreases. This doesn’t even take into account indirect reductions as subsidiary businesses increase their local employees to support a new high tech manufacturing operation.

“In addition, the location of a light rail car manufacturing facility within close proximity to the intended customer has other air related benefits. Specifically, moving partially assembled rail cars long distances will require the consumption of a large amount of fossil fuels substantially increasing the carbon footprint of what should be a major “green” project. Given California’s commitment to lowering the emissions of greenhouse gasses, of which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail car upgrades are a part, it seems counterintuitive to have the construction of such rail cars occur outside the area of use.”

The AVAQMD Board also expressed concern about the use of the CEQA process for non-environmental purposes. “What should be a valuable tool for the review of potential environmental effects of a proposed project,” the letter stated, “has instead been turned into a method to delay decisions so that particular groups can extort concessions from the proponent, in this case a job creator. As far as air quality is concerned, the AVAQMD is certain that the environmental impacts of the proposed Kinkisharyo facility will be well within the parameters allowed by law and air district rules. A dust control plan will be required for the construction of the proposed facility. All air pollution emitting equipment will be required to obtain permits, complete with requirements for best available control technology. Compliance with air district rules will ensure that the potential air pollution impacts of such a facility will be minimal.”

After an extended site selection, Kinkisharyo announced earlier this year that in proposed to invest over $60 million to build a 427,507 square foot manufacturing and assembly facility in Palmdale. The project will create hundreds of temporary construction jobs, as well as creating 300 permanent high-paying manufacturing jobs.