CA governor wants environmental waivers for high-speed rail project

Remind me, again, of the point of spending $100 billion on a train between San Francisco and Los Angeles that would carry passengers in times that far exceed what an airplane trip takes.  It can’t be to save money; California could build at least a dozen new international airports with that cash. The purpose was to save the environment by eliminating the carbon footprint of the airplanes and cars that currently provide transportation between California’s two largest population centers, as well as to eliminate the need for more of that dirty oil exploration and refining activity that fuels those vehicles.  The high-speed rail would get its energy from a clean source (Arizona?), and protect the environment to boot.

That must explain why the project needs waivers from the same kind of environmental laws that have hamstrung California businesses for decades:

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.

Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, said the proposal consists of “pretty small, pretty technical” changes. It would allow a judge to block construction in major cases – if opponents showed, for example, that an endangered species was threatened with extinction, he said.

Say, I have an idea.  Why not just change the laws so that anyone who wants to build, open, or operate a business can do so, allowing judges to stop it only when “the most serious environmental cases” arise?  We can then let farmer farm, investors open new businesses, and energy producers generate the electricity and fuel California needs to power its economy — and that big choo-choo they’re building astride the San Andreas Fault, too.  Best of all, that would mean the rule of law would prevail and apply equally to everyone, from Sacramento all the way down to California’s subjects, er, citizens.

Of course, I’m just being silly.  America wasn’t founded to apply the rule of law equally to everyone!  It exists to give elected officials like Jerry Brown the power to build massively expensive 19th-century transportation solutions during a chronic debt crisis at the state and national level, while breaking the same laws he wants to enforce against everyone else.  Some animals truly are more equal than others on the farm.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023