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The judge halts development in California, citing the dangers of wildfires

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Labeck, California (AFP) – A judge has blocked a long-running plan to build a community of 19,000 homes on the vast Tijon Ranch north of Los Angeles, citing the high risk of wildfires.

Supreme Court Judge Mitchell Beklov on Tuesday rejected the Los Angeles County approval of the developer’s Environmental Impact Report, effectively impeding construction.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the judge cited aspects of the environmental review related to the risk of fires and additional greenhouse gases from the vehicles.

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The newspaper said the ruling does not eliminate the project on the southern flanks of the Tehachapi Mountains near the Kern County border, but it threatens to delay it significantly.

The Biodiversity Center, one of the most outspoken opponents of the project, praised the judge’s decision.

“The science is clear that developments like Centennial will actually be built for combustion, and our elected officials cannot continue to mitigate these risks through imprecise environmental reviews,” GB Rose, an attorney for the Environment Group, said in a statement on Thursday.

The project developer said the ruling would only delay construction.

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“Environmental impact reports are very long and complex documents and it is difficult to get everything perfect the first time,” Barry Zoeller, senior vice president at Tigon Ranch, said in a statement. “At the judge’s direction,” he added, the company plans to work with Los Angeles County to address what he described as “a few remaining cases.”

The Centennial Project has faced significant opposition since it was proposed by Tejon Ranch in 1999.

Opponents cite impacts on plant and animal habitats, earthquake and wildfire hazards, traffic congestion and pollution, among others.

Advocates say Centennial will bring housing, jobs, and revenue to the county, as well as needed infrastructure in the area 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of downtown Los Angeles.

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