Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Federal agency may pre-empt state environmental law, but...

The Daily Journal (San Mateo County), The Associated/Tom Verdin, 12/16/14. "Federal ruling big win for California high-speed rail."

(credit: CBS)
Clean rail
Federal agency trumps
An artist's impression of California's new high-speed train
But how many
"frogs" must be sacrificed?
There must be a State lawsuit for that
"SACRAMENTO — A federal agency that has jurisdiction over California’s bullet train has ruled that it has the authority to pre-empt state environmental law, creating uncertainty for numerous groups fighting the project in court. .... The ruling makes it clear that federal law has precedent over state law as it pertains to construction of the high-speed rail line, said Lisa Marie Alley, spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. She said agency officials were still reviewing the decision. Yet it also has the potential to muddy the legal waters.

....  The ruling also conflicts with a previous decision by a California appeals court in a case involving several municipalities south of San Francisco that are challenging the project. The California Court of Appeal previously decided in favor of Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and a collection of community groups, ruling that the California environmental law is not pre-empted by federal jurisdiction. “Nobody’s really quite sure what to do with this,” said Stuart Flashman, an Oakland attorney representing the plaintiffs in the Atherton case.  .... Coleen Carlson (the attorney for Kings County)  said the ruling also disregards a provision of Proposition 1A, the voter initiative that authorized the project. That provision says the environmental work for the first 300 miles must be completed before any state bond money is spent.The rail authority approved an extensive environmental impact report for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section in May."   Read more.

Reference -  State of CA High-Speed Rail Authority.   Related - CBS/Politics/Associated Press/Los Angeles, 6/27/14. "Feds approve next leg of California Bullet-train line"  "SACRAMENTO — The U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval Friday for work to begin on the second leg of California’s proposed $68 billion high-speed rail line, endorsing the state’s environmental review for the section running between Fresno and Bakersfield. The decision allows the state to begin acquiring land along the 114-mile route, although the state is waiting for approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board before it can begin construction on this segment.  ....  Earlier this month, the state Legislature approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to give high-speed rail $250 million from the state’s pollution fees in the upcoming fiscal year. In the future, the project will receive a quarter of the program’s revenue as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the Central Valley. That sparked a new lawsuit this week from a San Rafael-based group that alleges the state Air Resources Board downplayed the harmful effects of high-speed rail construction on the environment and exaggerated the potential environmental benefits to allow the bullet train to be eligible for the funding."

Note:  artist rendering of high-speed rail train, right from the related CBS article above; left from from Gizmag.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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