Bullet train is CEQA exempt?

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Nov. 15, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has declared that the high-speed rail project should not be subject to California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because state officials are not seeking CEQA review and third parties cannot force CEQA review of a project preempted by federal law.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, maintain that a CEQA review is mandated by state law and that federal law cannot preempt it due to a “market participant exception.” They contend that Proposition 1A , approved by the voters in 2008 to fund the project, would not have passed if the project was not to be subject to environmental review under CEQA.

The Attorney General’s office argues the market participation exemption does not apply to “tilt the playing field against the state and it does not apply where the state has not invoked it.”

Local groups have challenged, in California’s Third District Court of Appeal (Town of Atherton, et al vs. California High-Speed Rail Authority, a future planned San Francisco to San Jose segment of the project. The AG’s office, representing the High-Sped Rail Authority, prevailed in the lower court decision.

Governor Jerry Brown has made construction of the bullet train a priority and hopes to use revenues generated by the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to help build it. The eventual cost of the train has skyrocketed from 2008 estimates. The plan is for the train to eventually link Greater Los Angeles with the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the initial phase would only extend 29 miles in the Central Valley, starting from the tiny town of Borden, connect to a new station in downtown Fresno and another one east of Hanford, then end in Corcoran, another small town….missing the population centers of Merced and Bakersfield. Businesses and farms in the bullet train’s path have generated significant negative publicity and the actual speed of the trip is questionable due to commitments for numerous stops along the route.

Stay tuned as this saga develops. A great deal of money still must be committed and opposition appears to be growing.

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