The governing board of the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District is asking that Gov. Jerry Brown intervene in a dispute threatening Kinkiharyo International from opening a rail car factory in Palmdale.
The letter, sent Tuesday, seeks Brown’s assistance in keeping the Japanese company on track with its plans to construct a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in the Antelope Valley.
Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development, a labor-backed group, has filed objections to the project, asserting it could cause environmental damage. Central to the argument are 1993 and 1996 environmental impact reports on the property that the appeal calls “outdated.”
However, the board said in its letter that the project will create local construction and assembly jobs that will help reduce pollution in the Antelope Valley by shortening the distance workers would have to travel for work.
“This doesn’t even take into account indirect reductions as subsidiary businesses increase their local employees to support a new high-tech manufacturing operation,” the letter said.
It also stated that environmental effects during construction would be minimized and not violate air district rules.
“A dust control plan will be required for the construction of the proposed facility,” the letter stated. “All air pollution emitting equipment will be required to obtain permits, complete with requirements for best available control technology.”
This is the second time this week that a call has gone out for Brown to involve himself in the Kinkisharyo dispute. On Monday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and other elected officials made the same plea.
Kinkisharyo, the El Segundo-based U.S. arm of Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. of Osaka, backed off of plans to build the manufacturing plant after the residents’ group filed an appeal in September of the Palmdale Planning Commission’s approval of the project.
Kinkisharyo has said it believes the underlying cause of the challenge was the result of the company not allowing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 11 use the simpler card-check process to organize the new Palmdale plant, which would employ up to 250 workers. Members of the local, based in Pasadena, are members of the residents group.
An attorney for the group has said the denial of card check did not figure into the decision to challenge the project.
Kinkisharyo received a contract in 2012 from Metro for an order of 78 light rail cars, and options for an additional 97 cars. If options for another 60 cars are exercised by the Metro board, the contract with Kinkisharyo would total about $890 million.
The company is doing final assembly work on the cars in hangar space the company is leasing in Palmdale from Los Angeles World Airports. A permanent plant would allow the company to construct the cars' aluminum shell in the United States instead of importing them from Japan.
Kinkisharyo currently has about 163 employees in Los Angeles County, with 150 in Palmdale.