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Gov. Brown no longer seeking exemptions from environmental laws for bullet train construction; Project possibly doomed

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By Doug Powers  •  June 22, 2012 01:37 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

With each passing day, the “train to nowhere” gets a lot more “nowhere” and far less “train.”

Earlier this month, California’s environmentalist Governor Jerry Brown announced that he would seek to exempt construction of the $60 billion to $100 billion California high speed rail boondoggle project from all those environmental regulations that he as Attorney General supported and enforced. Due to pressure from environmental groups, Brown has changed his mind.

From the LA Times:

After encountering criticism from environmental groups, Gov. Jerry Brown signaled Wednesday that he plans to withdraw his controversial proposal to protect the California bullet train project from injunctions sought by environmental lawsuits.

Brown’s staff told key environmental groups that he would no longer include modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act in a package of legislation this month asking for $6 billion to start construction of the high-speed rail project.

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment. State senators and their staffers confirmed the governor’s move.

Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said there wasn’t “a lot of stomach” for Brown’s proposal among his colleagues in the Legislature.

Conn Carroll at the Washington Examiner outlines how the pro-train environmentalists’ unwillingness to obtain waivers protecting them from lawsuits from themselves may effectively put a bullet through the bullet train project:

President Obama’s stimulus allocated $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, including, eventually, up to $3.5 billion for California’s project. However, according to the stimulus law, California must begin construction on the project before December 31, 2012 or they will not be eligible for any more high speed rail stimulus dollars. Obama’s Transportation Department reaffirmed this time limit last year when they admitted they had “no administrative authority to change this deadline.”

Fast forward to this June when the city of Chowchilla filed suit to stop construction of the project alleging that the High Speed Rail Authority failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

Studies show that the average time to complete the NEPA process is 6.1 years. And NEPA is designed to be a preventative statute. Federal courts routinely issue injunctions to stop projects before they ever begin. That is why oil companies preemptively sued environmental groups earlier this year over leases in Alaska. They wanted to get the litigation out of the way so they could begin oil exploration as fast as possible.

Considering the hoops he’d have to jump through in California, Brown couldn’t even obtain the permits to construct a Lionel track around a Christmas tree before the December 31st deadline for keeping federal funding (heck, he probably couldn’t even get the permits for the tree by then).

If the “train to nowhere” proponents could stop regulating others for a minute, pause for introspection and use this opportunity to help them understand why California is considered the worst state for business, the runaround might have been worth it. But that won’t happen.

And now, a dramatic re-enactment of California’s environmental laws coming back to bite the same people who support them:

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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