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A novel legal theory to abandon the state's responsibility

Original post made by Tim Hunt on Aug 14, 2013


The state of California has invented a unique justification to surrender control of the environmental review process of the high-speed rail to the federal government.
In a filing last week, the state attorney general's office argues that the state no longer has any role in environmental review for the high-speed rail line because of a submission by project opponents to the federal Surface Transportation Board. That board concluded that it has authority over the entire line therefore the state's rigid environmental laws do not apply.
Wow.
A state government and population that prides itself on having the toughest environmental laws and regulations in the country (look back at Thursday's post on the statewide environmental survey) has its attorney general say it will take a pass on a $68 billion project (that's capital expenditures alone—as compared to $14 billion for the new tunnels in the Delta). Please remember that the feds—through the 2009 stimulus act (how well has that worked other than for public employee unions?) have committed to investing $3 billion if the authority can break ground this year. The rest is supposed to come from bonds issued by the state and paid for from the general fund and private investment. Do you see any venture capitalists or institutional investors chomping at the bit?
There are still pending legal cases—thus last week's response—which demonstrates the absolute desperation and determination of the governor and his allies to jam the high-speed rail—regardless of costs—down the throats of the San Joaquin Valley and the state's taxpayers.
The history of the high-speed rail is simply ones of promises broken—it's that simple, whether it's the business plan, the ridership numbers or the financing. To embark upon a $68 billion enterprise that –at its best—is doubtful or worse for its need or benefits—is foolhardy. But this seems to be about legacy for Governor Jerry Brown (in this case, he seems to have returned to his "Moonbeam" state).
The novel legal theory to cast aside the state's role in environmental review—particularly when the EIRs to date only cover the farm land path in the San Joaquin Valley from nowhere to nowhere as opposed to going over the
Tehachapis and then through Los Angeles and Orange County to San Diego to say nothing about going over Pacheco Pass into Gilroy, through San Jose and then up the peninsula to downtown San Francisco. If the state AG happens to prevail, it will make the project's process forward much easier.
Of course, if a Democrat succeeds President Obama in the White House and the Dems control both houses of Congress, the spending spree of 2009-2011 will resume—Heaven forbid and absurd projects such as the high-speed rail and $7,500 per vehicle subsidies for electric cars will be commonplace.

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