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Gov. Brown Relents To Environmentalists: CEQA to Apply to HSR

Under intense political pressure to retain the full application of the CA Environmental Quality Act to CA High Speed Rail project, Gov. Brown withdrew his proposal to allow the project certain exceptions to lawsuits.
June 23, 2012, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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With legislators due shortly to vote to authorize $2.7 billion from the $9.95 billion 2008 High Speed Rail bond act, the relief from environmental lawsuits intending to slow the project proved secondary to getting the legislature to authorize the state funding. Ralph Vartabedian and Chris Megerian describe the circumstances surrounding the Governor's change of mind.

"It appeared that the proposal was jeopardizing support for the rail project from the environmental movement, a stalwart supporter of high-speed rail along with labor unions and big engineering firms.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council raised objections to Brown's proposal, saying it was part of a pattern to water down one of the most important pieces of environmental law in history.

Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said the rail project was exactly the type of major construction that the environmental laws were intended to address...Phillips said it would now be appropriate for the Sierra Club to support the appropriations for starting construction, since the group was a backer of the original bond proposal that was passed by voters in 2008."

The legislature had qualms about providing the environmental exceptions.

"Sen. Joe Simitian, (a key Democrat representing three San Francisco Peninsula cities that are suing the High Speed Rail Authority) said there wasn't "a lot of stomach" for Brown's proposal among his colleagues in the Legislature.

"I think that's wise," Simitian said. "It was a bridge too far. The obvious question is, is this a decision for the long term, or will the issue of environmental exceptions be revisited in the near future? That's a question people are going to ask."

Thanks to MTC Library

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Published on Thursday, June 21, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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