California’s High Speed Rail Derailed by Lawsuit

CERDAFIED - What an unusual world we live in today. We start with a lawyer creating a bill, a lawyer lobbying for the bill, many lawyers voting on the bill, a lawyer suing to stop the bill, and a former lawyer now judge deciding the legitimacy of the case. It’s a hamster wheel of lawyering.

Fortunately, the newly approved $68 billion dollar, high speed rail project, has been side tracked by law suits. Unfortunately the lawsuit is aimed at only a 65 mile segment of the plan from Merced to Fresno.

The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court by Madera and Merced farm bureaus, Chowchilla Water District, Preserve Our Heritage, Merced County, and Fagundes Dairy.  Dan Richard, the Authority Board Chairman, assured “Wall Street Journal” readers that that the project will move forward and that only the Merced to Fresno segment would be delayed.

In question is that pesky requirement for a honest and unbiased environmental impact report. Actually I don’t believe “honest and unbiased” is required by law. Only that it notes description of effect, mitigation measures, findings for each specific measure, and a rationale for those findings.

Perhaps that pesky part requiring “rationale” is getting in the way. After all, justifying environmental impacts is why Fukishima got the green light to operate by highly paid professionals who now have no idea how to resolve this global disaster.

Tom Rogers, Madera County Bureau President, released a statement, “Now the time has come to show the Authority that we are deadly serious about protecting our way of life as well as our bedrock agricultural economy.” He expressed frustration at not having his concerns addressed.

The rail line will negatively impact 1,500 acres of prime farmland, wildlife habitat, water supply, and the already temperamental agriculture economy. The land is fairly flat and is expected to be the easiest portion to construct as well as the cheapest. In as much as one may consider billions cheap.

Dan Richard is of the opinion that 150 public meetings, and feedback from elected officials, local businesses and residents should suffice. However, this is only well and good if the information provided is based on factual premises and that all relevant information is considered.

We are not talking about pretty pictures of site maps and glowing estimates of ridership projections. We are talking about the real nitty gritty details regarding deals made with each city or county and all those quasi professional findings.

Truth be known, a city or county can justify anything they want, it’s up to the voters to correct them.

And realistically, no matter where you move these tracks, you increased costs, invoked new rage, generated new meetings and the need for another EIR.

The lawsuit contends that the state’s open meeting law was violated and that “due to myriad analytical deficiencies, (the Environmental Impact Report) failed to disclose and analyze the full scope and severity of impacts”  and “failed to avoid or mitigate the impacts to the extent feasible as required under CEQA”.

So now we wait, and keep our fingers crossed that every mile of the line is covered by a law suit.

(Lisa Cerda is a contributor to CityWatch, a community activist, Chair of Tarzana Residents Against Poorly Planned Development, and former Tarzana Neighborhood Council board member.) –cw

Tags: Lisa Cerda, Cerdafied, California, High Speed Rail, law suit, lawyers

Vol 10 Issue 56
Pub: July 13, 2012