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California Gov. Jerry Brown Finds Environmental Regs Inconvenient For High Speed Rail

Written By : William Teach
June 4, 2012

California has lots and lots of environmental regulations that stifle business and its economy. Now, not all of them are bad, but, what’s a Democrat governor to do when these regulations get in the way of his high dollar boondogle?

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(Oakland Tribune) Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to fast-track California’s $69 billion high-speed rail project by easing legal scrutiny under the state’s landmark environmental law, this newspaper learned Friday.

The proposal, which the Legislature would have to approve this month as part of launching the state’s biggest-ever construction project, does not change the California Environmental Quality Act. But Brown’s plan, while angering environmentalists, would have two major consequences.

First, it virtually takes away the final bullet in the chamber that project opponents were hoping to use to kill high-speed rail: a court-ordered injunction halting construction.

Under Brown’s proposal, train foes would have to prove in court that the project causes major environmental problems, such as wiping out an endangered species or damaging extremely valuable land. In the past, opponents on the Peninsula have delayed planning for the project by convincing a judge of minor problems — for instance, that the state did not adequately study track vibrations. And Central Valley farmers Friday filed a lawsuit with a similar strategy in mind.

Second, the proposal adds to a growing number of large-scale projects that Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have tried to exempt from the most intense environmental legal scrutiny by arguing that California needs to create jobs quickly. In this case, court delays would void key federal high-speed rail grants needed to begin construction, which would prevent job creation and the development of a greener way to travel.

Environmentalists are not particularly happy with Brown’s change of tune in attempting to essentially bypass the environmental regulations he previously supported when it was Someone Else attempting some sort of business venture. And a new poll shows that

Fifty-five percent of voters want to see the high-speed rail bond issue that was approved in 2008 back on the ballot, and 59 percent say they would now vote against it, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey (lat.ms/N9tTcm) published Saturday.

It’s not like California is $16 billion in the hole and seeing the tax-base streaming out of the state for greener pastures. Let’s spend tens of billions (final cost will most likely be above $100 billion) on a train that few will ride. And destroy the environment at the same time!

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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