Monday, June 4, 2012

Your California high-speed cboo-choo update


So it's massively over-budget. So, it's massively behind schedule. So, it's got a politically-connected head of the rail commission that came straight from the head offices of the project's largest contractor and who is going to grease skids and twist arms both in Sacramento and D.C. in order to get this thing done.

You aren't worrying about any of that because, despite all these apparent difficulties and obstacles, you could still comfort yourself with the fact that in your frequent trips from San Diego* Orange County to Fresno, you were doing it in an environmentally-responsible manner or something.

But as we are finding out, when it comes to navigating one's way through the labyrinth of the modern statist regulatory regime, rules are for the little people.

The Brown administration is preparing a proposal to limit environmental challenges to California's high-speed rail project, heightening legal standards under which a court could block construction.

The proposal could shield the $68 billion project from court-ordered injunctions that might otherwise be issued under the California Environmental Quality Act. Except in the most serious environmental cases, the proposed legislation would let construction proceed while the California High-Speed Rail Authority fixes any environmental flaws identified by a judge.

The proposal is likely to be considered by the Legislature this month or next. Environmentalists expected to be briefed by administration officials on the plan next week.

(italics, ours)

As could be expected the Green lobby is less than impressed:

"I don't imagine that we're going to see something next week that will make us want to embrace these exemptions that they're going to be proposing," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California.

Phillips said the rail authority's concern about environmental challenges slowing the project is misplaced.

"Environmental review is not going to slow this project," she said. "What's going to slow this project is ineptitude by the high-speed rail authority, and that's what we have seen, at least in the last four years."

In addition to raising standards for blocking construction, the proposal would make it easier for the administration to modify parts of the project without re-doing its overall environmental review.

In a vacuum, we don't really have a problem with what the rail authority is doing. However, it begs the questions of why it is these considerations are not granted to other projects and if what the rail authority will "fix" are really consequential environmental infractions.

Of course, you all know the answer to that. This project is on everyone's radar and the political will at the state and federal level to get this thing built will be unmatched by anything we've seen in our lifetime, at least with respect to a public works project.

We continue to marvel at the statist web of rules and regulations that run counter to the big green dreams of the very same statists who put them in place.


1 comment:

K T Cat said...

I'm just wondering - will the train be solar powered?