By Juliet Williams, June 23, 2014
SACRAMENTO >> A San Rafael-based group that opposes
California’s high-speed rail project filed a lawsuit Monday contesting
the state’s plan to fund it with money from a greenhouse gas emissions
program, arguing that building the $68 billion bullet train would create
more pollution than it would reduce for at least a decade.
Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in
Fresno County Superior Court against the California Air Resources
Board, the state agency responsible for ensuring California meets the
emissions reduction targets in its landmark global warming law, AB32.
The suit alleges the board downplayed the harmful effects on the
environment and exaggerated the potential environmental benefits of
high-speed rail in its scoping plan, allowing the state to claim the
bullet train will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction
The suit came just a week after the state Legislature
approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to give high-speed rail $250 million
from the state’s cap-and-trade pollution fees in the upcoming fiscal
year and a quarter of the program’s future revenues. Some environmental
groups initially opposed the plan.
The lawsuit says the scoping plan relied almost entirely on the
California High-Speed Rail Authority’s “inadequate” environmental
analysis “without doing its own independent analysis and evaluation of
those impacts and their significance” as required under California’s
strict environmental laws.
It says the board also failed to
consider the pollution associated with “manufacturing the many thousands
of tons of cement that would be needed for the project’s construction.”
spokesman for the Air Resources Board, Stanley Young, said in an email
that high-speed rail has been integral to the state’s AB32 plan since it
was developed in 2008.
"Not only will it be constructed with net-zero emissions, but it will
dramatically reduce car miles traveled in the state,” Young said.
California High-Speed Rail Authority did not respond to a request for
comment Monday. Spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley has called the agency’s
environmental review “perhaps the most comprehensive analysis document
ever prepared in California.”
The transportation group’s
president, David Schonbrunn, said he submitted written and oral comments
to the air board about the thousands of tons of cement that were not
accounted for in the plan, but the lawsuit says ARB failed to respond as
required by law.
The suit also claims the agency is required to ensure its
environmental assessment considered a reasonable range of feasible
alternatives to reduce the project’s carbon emissions, such as using
fewer raised concrete viaducts, but it did not do so.
wants the court to order the ARB to rescind its inclusion of high-speed
rail in the scoping plan and to invalidate funding for it from the
greenhouse gas emissions reduction fund.
AB32 aims to cut California’s greenhouse gas production to 1990 levels by 2020.