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Judge blocks Wal-Mart's supercenter proposal for Yucca Valley

May 16, 2009|Margot Roosevelt

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge has rebuffed Wal-Mart's plan for a supercenter in the desert town of Yucca Valley, partly on the grounds that the giant retailer failed to take measures to reduce its impact on global warming.

Environmentalists had been pressuring Wal-Mart to install solar panels to provide electricity for its proposed 184,000-square-foot store. But the retailer contended that the estimated 7,000 metric tons per year of greenhouse gases that would result from the store's operation was too insignificant to require such measures under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Judge Barry Plotkin, relying on contrary evidence from state air quality officials, ruled otherwise on Thursday, in a case that signals a growing legal consensus that climate change must be considered by businesses and governments promoting new developments.

"California is in the forefront," said Matthew Vespa, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based group, which sued Wal-Mart and Yucca Valley.

legal consensusYucca Valley's proposed supercenter is designed to replace an existing smaller store. It would include a large grocery area, which Wal-Mart said would not affect the town's four other grocery stores. Plotkin, however, found the retailer's economic analysis flawed.

The judge also deemed the retailer's analysis of ozone and dust pollution inadequate.

"We're disappointed with this ruling," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Michelle Bradford said. "It delays the opportunity for Yucca Valley residents to enjoy the benefits of cost savings and new opportunities, at a store that is setting new standards for sustainable building."

She declined to say what those standards were. However, Wal-Mart has waged a campaign to promote its sustainability efforts in recent years.

The judge ordered town officials to examine the feasibility of an "environmentally superior 'green' Wal-Mart supercenter alternative."

Town Manager Andrew Takata said Yucca Valley officials are "disappointed" with the court ruling, but that plans for the new store would proceed, either through an appeal or by revising the environmental impact statement.

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margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

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