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City may seek 'peer review' for Wal-Mart distribution center

Intense public interest in how a Wal-Mart distribution center would affect the environment is prompting the city to consider adding another layer of scrutiny to the project.

The City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to conduct what’s called a “peer review” of the environmental impact report on Wal-Mart’s proposed distribution center in Southeast Merced.

If the council approves the plan, the city will hire Irvine-based consultants RBF, Inc. to read and analyze the environmental impact report. Wal-Mart would pay the $18,800 consulting tab.

Putting an extra set of eyes on the environmental impact report is meant to ensure that “nothing is overlooked,” said city Planning Manager Kim Espinosa.

“Because of the amount of attention that the project has gotten from the public and the number of issues that people have raised, we wanted to make sure that the environmental impact report is as complete and thorough as possible,” said Espinosa.