Farm Bureau Anti-HSR Suit Clearly Intended to Stop Project

Sep 26th, 2012 | Posted by

There’s been a lot of discussion of the California Environmental Quality Act lately and the need to reform it. My view is that environmental regulations and reviews of projects are very important, but that it should not be used to stop good and environmentally friendly projects from going forward. If the review process is used with the intent of making a project better, that’s great! But that’s not what’s happening with high speed rail.

NB San Joaquin at Sharon

Last week two farm bureaus – from Merced and Madera counties – were in superior court in Sacramento to argue why CEQA should be used to stop the high speed rail project in its tracks. As this report from the Ag Alert, a publication of the California Farm Bureau Federation, makes clear, the goal is indeed to stop HSR and CEQA is merely the vehicle to achieve a result the plaintiffs could not win at the ballot box or in the state legislature:

“Regardless of the federal approval and regardless of the Obama administration’s promise to expedite permits, the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) case will stop the project if the preliminary injunction is issued,” said Anja Raudabaugh, Madera County Farm Bureau executive director. “If they can’t get past the CEQA challenge, the project gets stopped….

“That the judge is going to allow our preliminary injunction hearing to occur [in November] is huge. If an injunction is issued, they will not be able to release federal money in time to complete by the December 2017 deadline, which stops our segment of the project,” Raudabaugh said.

That’s as clear a statement as you need to know that stopping the project outright is their goal. That question shouldn’t be decided in the courts and it shouldn’t be decided by using CEQA. When it comes to environmentally friendly projects like sustainable, electric passenger trains, approval by voters and legislators should be enough to determine that it will go forward. CEQA’s role should be to ensure that it is built in ways that help the environment, and that any impacts are properly mitigated. And the court’s role is to see that those rules are followed.

What the Farm Bureaus are after is something else entirely – using the CEQA and court processes to destroy a project they couldn’t stop through the normal democratic processes. They have a right to want to stop the project, sure. But they’re abusing CEQA in the process. And so this lawsuit becomes yet another piece of evidence in the growing case for CEQA reform.

As to the Farm Bureau’s concerns about HSR’s impact on the ag industry, I’m not sure I agree with this logic:

“This case for us is about preserving ag land,” Raudabaugh said. “The threat that this project poses is the biggest threat to the Central San Joaquin Valley that has ever happened, because of the size of the project and the potential to urbanize prime farmland.”

I strongly support preserving ag land too. But I do not see how HSR threatens it. It certainly won’t urbanize it. The best comparison to the HSR project is Interstate 5, built through the middle of farmland on the west side of the Central Valley. It didn’t lead to urbanization, as you can see by the long, empty, almost desolate drive on I-5 between Tracy and the Grapevine.

And because HSR stations will be in the middle of existing cities, it won’t create pressure for urbanization. Instead it will create pressure to densify existing urban areas, with the most pressure coming in the areas immediately adjacent to the stations. Farmers in Merced or Madera counties whose land won’t see tracks running through it will see no impacts at all. Farmers whose land will have tracks running through it will obviously see impacts, but those are minor and can be mitigated.

Who knows what will happen in Sacramento Superior Court in November. But this does show what should happen in the Sacramento State Capitol in 2013, and that is reform of CEQA so that people can’t use the law to try and kill good, environmentally friendly projects they personally dislike.

  1. Roger Christensen
    Sep 26th, 2012 at 08:40

    Raudabaugh’s strident war cries are occasionally interspersed with we’re-not-really-against-the-project statements. The Farm Bureau here carries as much bile as the arrogant Jeff Denham. How’s his race polling? Now there’s an election wish list.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I included an update on the CA-10 race on Saturday’s post – Hernandez leads Denham by 2 points.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hopefully both Hernandez(CA-10) and Rogers(CA-25) win their respective elections this November 6th 2012…

    YESONHSR Reply:

    Maby someone should show how much subsdies these “small” farmers receive??? Lamaffa the anti HSR/teaparty Senator get millions and thinks it just fine…

  2. Alon Levy
    Sep 26th, 2012 at 09:10

    Serious question: what is the difference between Jerry Brown waiving CEQA and Rahm Emanuel breaking the Chicago teachers’ strike? In both cases you have an establishment politician, who won an election largely because of name recognition and star power, facing off traditional Democratic activist interest groups that are not in line with his agenda.

    Mike Reply:

    Well, one obvious difference is that Jerry needs legislative concurrence (and failed) while Emanuel needed only to exercise his existing authority (and largely succeeded).

    joe Reply:

    Let’s see.

    Rahm won what exactly?

    His tough guy image backfired – swearing and bullying just galvanized the CTU.
    90% of the CTU approved the strike.
    The CTU Struck. Schools closed.
    Rahm failed to get a Court Order to force the CTU back to work.
    Polls show a majority of voters approved the teachers position.

    Winning is Ronnie Reagan who fired striking Air Traffic Controllers and replaced them with Scabs.

    We’ll see how well Rahm fairs in the next election. I am sure the Union Police and Fire Depts will see how the CTU dealt with Rahm and they know what is position is on costs and Labor agreements. He breaks them and dictates unachievable concessions.

    missiondweller Reply:

    “Winning is Ronnie Reagan”

    Damn straight

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Serious answer: Teachers don’t have long pointed ends that rush thrillingly into tunnels.

  3. Eric M
    Sep 26th, 2012 at 09:17

    “This case for us is about preserving ag land,” Raudabaugh said. “The threat that this project poses is the biggest threat to the Central San Joaquin Valley that has ever happened, because of the size of the project and the potential to urbanize prime farmland.”

    Total BS. In the past 10 years, thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland were sold to developers who built thousands of homes. Apparently there was no problem with that was there.

    Peter Reply:

    But but but, they were able to get more money out of developers for their lands than they will be able to from the Authority, so they’re totally justified in making hyperbolic claims like this.

  4. R. J. Messer
    Sep 26th, 2012 at 11:34

    The argument that high-speed rail will urbanize farm land is highly flawed. The thing that has driven urbanization in the US big money producing attractive low density, class stratified neighborhoods. (So entrepreneurial development stepped in at a time when government body’s dropped such practices.) This was on of the side effects of federally funded development of roads and highways as a key part of our commercial transportation infrastructure.

    But high-speed rail is fundamentally different from roads in that it only makes sense between geographically distant destinations that have population densities above some predetermined level. As with other “mass transits,” it trades cost-for-time or time-for-cost. And given that our lives are “perishable” in nature, we tend to seek out solutions that reduce our unproductive time. Airports succeed for this reason. Seaports and heavy rail succeeded though the opposite trade off, i.e. they reduce the shipping cost of low-perishable goods.

    The real threat to our agricultural lands has historically been incentivized big money suburban development. For example, in the 1980’s, south of Denver Colorado there was the Ken Caryl Ranch, and it was huge. It had been in the possession of one family for generations. The aging final owner sold it to a trust with the stipulation that it not be developed for half a century. Within two years of inking this agreement that trust was offered “a deal they could not refuse” and sold the land for development. A lawsuit was filed and won, but there was so much money being made in sales to developers that it was paid without flinching. It is now the largest part of Littleton Colorado. It was suburban sprawl that drove this, not densification. And from what I have seen of pop-up development in the northern Central Valley of California this is still the case, CEQA be damned.

    While I love to drive, it is obvious that unrestrained sub-urban development has been the biggest enemy of our farm lands that rail, air and ships combined.

  5. Reedman
    Sep 26th, 2012 at 14:02

    We wouldn’t need more housing if the population wasn’t growing. What drives housing development isn’t developers, it is demand for housing.

    Peter Reply:

    Really, so what I’ll call the “build rush” in the CV that produced a lot of empty houses was driven by a demand for housing? If that’s the case, why are so many houses empty now?

    R. J. Messer Reply:

    Population growth is not the US’s prime driver for housing. In fact the US population growth is slowing and is only bolstered by immigration.
    Actually, anticipation of demand drives investment which drives construction which produces housing, not demand for housing. Developments don’t happen because people put up the money to build lots of houses. It happens because someone’s with lots of money see’s an opportunity to amass lots more money.
    It’s not just the Central Valley but an observable fact all over our nation. Homes sit empty when things don’t pan out. If a corporation moves it’s operation to take advantage of “economic incentives,” and then leave when those incentive lapse, the corporate jobs leave with them. The workers are left with the choice of followed or floundered.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Speculation in effect does create additional demand, but it’s not sustained nor real in quality.

  6. David
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 00:06

    This reminds me of an article about this project (CAHSR) in the CV a couple months back, a few people in the comments kept suggesting they find a “lizard” or some endangered animal to stop the project. Just because they wanted it stoped, not that they gave a crap about the endangered animal. That should be illegal!

  7. James
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 06:02

    One only has to see the environmental damage of farming to laugh at the farm board’s purported concern for the environment. In the last 20 years, air quality near factory farms has gotten so bad you need to keep windows closed in the summer to keep out the stench.

    Peter Reply:

    CAFOs rule!

  8. Peter
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 06:42

    Completely OT: Has anyone heard about what’s going to happen with Wisconsin’s Talgos? Are they going to mothball them? I was just reading about Oregon purchasing two new Talgo trainsets for the Cascades (with the same funky-looking cab cars used by Wisconsin’s trains), and was wondering why they didn’t just offer to purchase Wisconsin’s completed trains.

    joe Reply:

    Talgo might sue for breach of contract.

    Nearly three years after city officials approved a $35 million redevelopment proposal for the former Tower Automotive Inc. complex, several buildings have been demolished, with a plan emerging on finding new uses for the site.

    Talgo is winding down those operations after building two train sets for the State of Wisconsin to use on Amtrak’s Milwaukee-Chicago service, under a contract that includes providing maintenance services. City officials had hoped Century City would become Talgo’s long-term maintenance base.

    But the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee in March canceled funding for a maintenance base because Republican committee members said the costs were too high.

    That led state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb to cancel the maintenance contract and declare he could not use the trains. In response, Talgo has threatened to sue the state.

    While state officials and Talgo executives continue to discuss that dispute, the completed trains remain stored at Century City and require minimal maintenance.

    Talgo isn’t moving to IL either.

    Transportation authorities in Illinois and California said Wednesday that the cars will be produced at a plant operated by Nippon-Sharyo’s U.S. subsidiary in Rochelle, Ill., pending an audit to verify that the cars and components will be produced and assembled in the United States.

    Peter Reply:

    Ugh, what’s with the obsession for bi-level cars in this country?

    Travis Mason-Bushman Reply:

    What’s wrong with bi-level cars?

    Peter Reply:

    My main problem is disabled access. Wheelchair-bound passengers are stuck on the bottom level of one car for the duration of the trip. On a long-distance train, that can be a LONG time.

    Travis Mason-Bushman Reply:

    Hmm. I can see that as an issue, but the space efficiency gained by double-decking is a pretty compelling improvement in economics. Milwaukee-Chicago is hardly long-distance anyway.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I have a feeling historical inertia and familiarity (US railroad culture is very conservative) is one factor for the preference for bilevels- the existence of gallery cars of 1950’s design origin in commuter services, and the Santa Fe long distance bilevels from El Capitan/SF Chief days, which were good designs. Coupled with the long dwell times encountered in general operations, the generous US loading gauge, and the public’s general like of anything “double” and high seating position, you have a strong incentive to stick to this familiar configuration.

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe FEC will buy them for All Aboard Florida.

  9. Alan
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 12:10

    I’d sure love to see the Farm Bureau people grilled on the witness stand about these public statements…let the CHSRA throw their words right back into their faces…

  10. John Bacon
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 17:34

    Settling the present obstructionist lawsuit by agreeing to build tracks serving San Joaquin Valley stops along current rail right-of-ways coupled with an agreement to allow the construction of a roughly parallel HSR line mostly along the I-5 center in order to serve the extremely large time sensitive LA – SF Bay Area travel market may simultaneously better serve the interests of CHSR establishment efforts and adjacent San Joaquin Valley residents than an unsatisfactory compromise for all parties involved. The shorter faster I-5 route would likely improve the cost/benefit ratio over the present CHSR design in the following additional ways:
    (1) The cost of extensive high-value property takings, high sound wall construction strong enough to avoid being blown over by fast trains, and long viaducts in order to provide a track bed sufficiently stable for 220 mph operation could be sharply reduced.
    (2) The significant risk that 220 mph operation through much of the central San Joaquin Valley would be curbed by court order due to excessive noise would be eliminated.
    (3) The number of inherently expensive and dangerous switches along 220 mph sections would be sharply reduced.
    (4) More central valley stops and greater ability to recover to scheduled operation from maintenance and other delays would become practical.
    Limiting Bakersfield to Chowchilla costs might leave enough money left over from the initial $6 billion CV CHSR construction budget to build a Chowchilla to Gilroy HSR route over the Pacheco Pass. That is if the CHSR planners take advantage of enormous momentum a 220 mph train has that can be used in order to help roll over Pacheco Pass’s 1,000 foot height above the surrounding planes on a 6% grade. Note: Highway 152 crosses the Pacheco Pass on a similar grade without resorting to tunneling.
    Operating a HSR train with a 3.5% maximum continuous grade operating limit specification could be done without overheating the traction motors by limiting traction motor current to the level required to sustain 220 mph on a level track-way. Traction motor power would decline in direct proportion to the inevitable train speed decline (Even a 2,5% grade at 220 mph would absorb 24 kw/tonne due to climbing.) while ascending a 6% grade.
    Given: A HSR train able to sustain a 220 mph speed on level track by applying a traction motor power of 24.0 kw/tonne. In order to ascend a 6% grade starting at 220 mph train speed would drop to 148 mph upon gaining 1,000 feet. This speed reduction can be verified by integrating the following equation with respect to velocity (v) from 220 to 148 mph:
    S = T*v = ∫{M/[(v/vi)*Po − (R*V + W*V^3)*M*G]}*(v^2)dt
    The derivation of this equation and the constants used for the calculation above will described in a following comment.

    synonymouse Reply:

    At this juncture any return to the I-5 route seems highly unlikely. Every aspect of the CHSRA megaproject is political; ergo it does not have to be particularly functional at all. All that matters is that political promises be made good.

    The political intransigeance is buttressed and mirrored at the consultant level. PB’s hubris is of the legendary Bechtel magnitude. The case for Tejon is much stronger than for I-5 and you see that advocating the obvious only managed to get Van Ark summarily fired.

    The San Joaquin Valley is in economic decline mode – the loss of CrapCast call centers and the Campbells Soup factory indicates how much California is on the enterprise shit list. The soup factory decision makes no sense at all on the face of it. The farms, cheap labor, a big market, and transportation all right there in the Valley and still they chose to close. So Jerry is politically hellbent on pandering to the likes of Fresno no matter how much subsidy it will require and how much the farmers are discommoded.

    I believe that Clem has argued that the real limitation on gradients is the braking safety factor. I doubt that 6% is practical for an hsr operation altho perfectly feasible for a streetcar.

    John Bacon Reply:

    Synonymouse : I completely agree that at high speed train on a 6% downhill slope prevents a high speed train from slowing down at a significant assured braking rate. Gravity accelerates a train on a 6% slope at the rate of 1.93 feet/sec2. Safety brake-rate standards for track subject to leaf and water contamination appear to be not much over 2.0 feetsec2. (BART’s open-air-safety-brake-rate standard is 2.2 feet/sec2.) Magnetically applied friction track and Foucault eddy current braking designs are clearly impractical for long high-speed trains because of track heating concerns. But extending the usual train separation standard that a following train must be able to make an assured stop before encountering the current position of a leading train, the so called ‘brick-wall’ safety standard, by adding the length of the 6% down slope grade before starting to climb over the pass safety concerns should be allayed.
    Wasn’t some of the strongest support for the 2008 CHSR Referendum coming from Central San Joaquin Valley residents hoping for a more convenient connection to world-wide airline service at major airports near Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area? A minimum size automatically operated every 5 minute shuttle car on existing tracks between Millbrae and SFO and a re-routed Caltrain−CHSR path to a subway station beneath the San Jose Airport Passenger Terminal connected to an hourly service mostly on a single dedicated track to Fresno, Visalia Area, and Bakersfield along established rail right-of-ways between Bakersfield and Chowchilla should produce an immediately useable facility after spending $8 billion+. You could add half a dozen stops between the San Jose Airport and Millbrae to give CV riders more one-seat-to-destination choices and simultaneously provide a 16−7 Caltrain express service.
    Wouldn’t an immediately useful result after spending $8 billion be an easier load for any politician to carry than to spend $6 billion in the CV on a super-potential-speed but expensive track that would boost a weak ridership Amtrak CV route’s top speed by only 31 mph? Altering the Initial CHSR Authority construction focus to the non-stop 110 mile Fresno to Gilroy HSR distance which could be traversed in under 40 minutes on a 220 mph capable single track would drastically improve the operating cost/effectiveness of two currently active politically supported passenger train routes.

  11. John Bacon
    Sep 27th, 2012 at 17:38

    Entrepreneurs seeking maximum return on capital normally complete revenue generating sections of large scale projects as soon as possible after serious money begins to be spent. One modern era example where the entire 241 mile route was immediately accessible three years after initial ground-breaking on October 27, 1952. The entire route opened October 1, 1955. Ten years ago a 882 mile 1.35 m gauge rail line was built to Darwin in Northern Australia for $1.36 million per mile at a progress rate of 2 km per day.
    Spending close to $6 billion in the San Joaquin Valley without a HSR connection to a major city makes no sense particularly when considering that a HSR connection CV to San Francisco is likely possible with the funds already appropriated. The 82 mile Chowchilla wye to Gilroy rail gap over Pacheco Pass could be constructed using one short tunnel (Not the 10 miles the CHSR A currently estimates for the route.) if the railway grades up to 6% were allowed. (For some perspective a 5-car Caltrain unit with an engine 25% traction coefficient can climb a 6.57% grade.) HSR train maximum grade climbing ability limits are often specified at 3.5% or 4% grades.
    Special ordering an inherently expensive to design and build component as a railway traction system is likely to prove quite expensive. Operating standard traction systems so that standard traction systems are adequate to overcome moderate length extraordinarily steep but short grades will cost a great deal less. A 220 mph train topping the Pacheco Pass which is 1,000 feet above the surrounding plains is just such a case.
    The kinetic energy of a 220 mph train is equivalent to the energy required to climb a 1,618 height: (V^2)/(2*G) = (322.7^2)/(2*32.174) = 1,618 feet
    Computing the speed and time lost at the top of a 1,000 foot climb by a 24.0 kw/tonne HSR train:
    The following two equations are Newton’s second law of motion (F = Ma) and the definition of acceleration (a = dv/dt) which is the rate of change of velocity.
    F = Ma, a = dv/dt.
    Multiplying Newton’s 2nd Law (F = Ma) by velocity (v) we obtain the definition of power which is the product of force times velocity (vF) in terms of the product of mass (M) times velocity (v) times the rate of change of velocity (dv/dt).
    F = M*a = M*dv/dt
    P = v*F = M*v*a = M*v*dv/dt
    The relation between the incremental amount of time (dt) it takes to change velocity a given incremental amount (dv) considering a constant mass (M) and traction power available (P)is:
    dt = (M/P)*v*dv
    The accelerating force available for accelerating a train is reduced by rolling friction and hill-climbing drag (R) plus wind resistance constant times the velocity squared (W*v^2). The power lost by the sum these two major acceleration retarding factors (R + W*v^2) is proportional to the speed (v) and weight (M*G) of the train [(R*v + W*v^3)*M*G].
    In the real world the power available for acceleration (P) is equal to the power available from the traction motors (Po) minus the power lost from rolling a wind resistance factors:
    P = Po − (R*v + W*v^3)*M*G
    Combining the time needed to accelerate equation [dt = (M/P)*v*dv] with the power available for acceleration:
    dt =(M/P)vdv = {M/[ Po − (R*v + W*v^3)*M*G]}*vdv
    Determining the total time (T) to change from one speed to another integrate the left side of the above equation with respect to t and integrate the right side with respect to v.
    T = ∫dt =(M/P)vdv = ∫{M/[ Po − (R*v + W*v^3)*M*G]}*vdv
    To determine distance (S) traveled as velocity changes from one speed to another multiply the equation above by v before integrating:
    S = T*v = ∫{M/[ Po − (R*V + W*V^3)*M*G]}*(v^2)dt
    Using the foot-pound-second system of units for a 6% grade and a 0.1% rolling friction for R = 0.061, 230E-9 for the wind constant (W), Po = 24.0 kw, M = 2204.6/32.174 = 68.52, G = 32.174
    Numerical integration of the distance equation shows that a train starting a 1,000 foot hill climb on a 6% grade at 220 mph will have its speed drop to 155 mph at the end of a 1,000 foot climb.
    One may legitimately object that maintaining a constant traction motor power as speed drops requires the operator to increase motor torque by increasing motor current inversely proportional to speed drop. Since an optimized motor will experience approximately half its heating due to current supply voltage drop across motor winding resistance the magnitude of that increased motor heating will be proportional to the square of that increased motor current rise. In the forgoing case maintaining constant power would entail a 74% increase in motor current heating at the 1,000 foot altitude gain point.
    [(220/167)^2]*100% = 174%
    This additional motor current heating could be completely avoided by maintaining a constant motor current as speed drops. Available traction power levels (Po) could expressed in the foregoing time and distance equations with the following equation: Poa = (v/vi)*Po with vi equal to the maximum in service speed.
    S = T*v = ∫{M/[(v/vi)*Po − (R*V + W*V^3)*M*G]}*(v^2)dt
    Maintaining constant current a HSR train will arrive at the top of a 1,000 foot climb on a 6% grade at 148 mph.
    T = ∫dt =(M/P)vdv = ∫{M/[(v/vi)*Po − (R*v + W*v^3)*M*G]}*vdv
    Integrating the time en-route equation above between the same two velocities 220 and 148 mph yields 62.29 seconds. If the same distance (1,000/0.06) was run at a constant 220 mph it would take 51.65 seconds. Therefore we have a net time lost due to climbing over Pacheco Pass compared to tunneling through at a constant 220 mph of 10.64 seconds.
    If a train’s traction motor power is controlled to only completely cancel-out the retarding effect of rolling plus wind friction a train approaching a 1,000 foot climb at 220 mph will have the following speed at the top of the hill regardless of the hillside track grade.
    Let Vi = the initial speed at the start of the climb and Vf be the train train speed at 1,000 feet above the start of the climb. The basic relation between the vertical climb (S) and kinetic energy (V) is:
    S*M*G = ½*M*(V^2)
    Dividing the equation above by ½*M:
    2*S*G = (V^2)
    2*(Sf – Si)*G = [(Vi^2) – (Vf^2)]
    The train speed at the top of the hill (Vf) will be:
    Vf = Square-root of [(Vi^2) − 2*(Sf – Si)*G]
    Vf = Square-root of [(323)^2)] − 2*(1,000 – 0)*32.2]
    Vf = Square-root of [(104,114 − 64,348]
    Vf = √39,766 = 199 feet/second = 136 mph

    John Bacon Reply:

    Correction: I was referring to the 241 mile Ohio Turnpike.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Don’t worry it’s tldr for anyone to notice

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