In a 6-1 ruling last week the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects. This decision is hailed by environmental activist and opponents of the California’s high-speed rail project.
So far there have been about a half a dozen lawsuits challenging environment impact reports for two rail segments in the Central Valley. Three of the suits are still pending.
More lawsuits are expected when the rail authority finalizes plans for construction in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.
Some legal observers said such review could potentially slow down construction of the high-speed rail line, possibly forcing state officials to move the line to other, less environmentally-sensitive locations.
Others, however, think that this may not be the final word on whether federal law pre-empts CEQA for state rail projects. The issue is also under consideration in federal court, and a federal agency determined several years ago that it has authority to pre-empt state environmental laws
California High Speed Rail Authority did not immediately comment on the ruling.
But the rail authority maintains that Federal pre-emption of the state’s environmental law would further its “ability to achieve the transportation, environmental, and economic benefits the high-speed rail system has to offer.”
Against all odds, the California bullet train project moves forward with the rail authority promoting a new interactive website focused on the construction of the nation’s first high-speed rail line.