April 22--San Bernardino -- As Omnitrans celebrated the grand opening of the sbX bus line in downtown San Bernardino Tuesday morning, more than two dozen protesters rang cowbells and chanted to draw attention to what they called an Omnitrans "bomb" next to an elementary school.
"We're here to oppose the 60,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas right here in our community," said Teresa Flores-Lopez, a Fourth Street resident and the president of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, a local activist group. "It's a potential bomb."
Downtown residents have been fighting Omnitrans' refueling station on the 1700 block of West Fifth Street, through which 500,000 gallons of natural gas passes through each month, the group says, for more than 10 years.
"We have been fighting this for a long time, but they keep ignoring us," said Kingman Street resident Susane Negrete. "Explosions can happen any time."
The proximity to Alessandro Elementary School, the Ruben Campos Community Center and Nunez Park across the street is "ridiculous," she said.
"This is not right," Negrete said. "It's not right."
In March, the concerns raised about the two 30,000-gallon liquefied natural gas tanks, and smaller quantities of compressed gas, prompted Omnitrans to hire a consultant to study the danger the tanks pose to residents.
The agency has previously said the storage facility complies with all applicable codes, and that none of its 100 natural gas tanks at various facilities have ever had an accident.
In the meantime, the fueling station remains in the midst of a residential neighborhood.
"It's like they're laughing at us," Negrete said. "What's wrong with them?"
Still, sbX officials had planned a day of celebrating the grand opening of the new sBX rapid transit line, a 15.7-mile route from north San Bernardino to Loma Linda.
The long-awaited project could be a boon for the region, area officials have said.
It opens officially on Monday.
Copyright 2014 - San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.