Once Again, High Speed Rail Prevails In Court
In a ruling that comes as no surprise to high speed rail supporters, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled yesterday in favor of the high speed rail project, refusing to grant an injunction to stop construction and indicating he was likely to rule in favor of the project at a final hearing in April.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Tim Frawley said at the end of a closely watched three-hour hearing that the 520-mile rail line was so unprecedented in size that he alone could not stop it now….
Frawley said to issue an injunction, he would have had to rule that construction would harm the farmers more than it would harm the project. But citing the potential the delays would have to raise construction costs and lose billions of dollars in federal funding, he said it was “not close” — the project had more to lose than the farmers….
This, however, is not the end of the legal battle. With the injunction request out of the way, both sides will now battle over the actual lawsuit, with a hearing scheduled on April 19, though Frawley said he was leaning toward ruling in favor of the state. Opponents are also contemplating a federal lawsuit.
Judge Frawley’s argument here is interesting – and sensible. A few farmers want people to believe their own interests are greater than the public interest, and that it’s worth risking billions of dollars in order to meet the needs of people whose concerns are valued, at the most, in the low millions. Judge Frawley rightly agreed that the farmer’s argument didn’t make any sense and that there was no good reason to grant an injunction now.
The judge also indicated he did not find the farmers’ arguments about the merits of the case to be persuasive. The California High Speed Rail Authority has done the environmental review process right, respecting the law and not making shortcuts, as the farmers had claimed.
This is another in a string of victories for the high speed rail project. To date no anti-HSR lawsuit has succeeded in its goal of derailing the project. The most these lawsuits have achieved is to send an EIR back for minor revisions while the project has been allowed to continue forward. These regular victories show that the lawsuits being filed have no basis or merit, yet they continue to be filed anyway, enabled by a broken California Environmental Quality Act that permits such costly yet frivolous lawsuits. CEQA reform is on the agenda for 2013 and clearly it is still needed, even as the high speed rail project continues to prevail in the courts.
As to the farmers themselves, they are still better off working with the Authority to get their needs met rather than trying to kill this project in the courts. The Authority has been doing a very good job of working with farmers to address concerns, and they should continue to do so rather than waste more of their money in court.