Jeff Denham’s Clever HSR Attack Continues
One of the very first things Jeff Denham did when he got to Congress in January 2011 was to defund the California high speed rail project. In March 2011 he published an op-ed in the Modesto Bee justifying his attack on the project using a series of flawed and easily debunked criticisms about the project’s ridership projections. Denham failed to take away existing funding for the project but succeeded in blocking any new federal funding for the project.
That set in motion a series of problems for the California HSR project. By throwing future federal funding into question, Denham undermined the project’s financing plans and made it look like the system wasn’t fully funded. That in turn created an opening for opponents to sue to stop further bond sales by claiming the lack of secured federal funding was a violation of Prop 1A. When a judge ruled in favor of those opponents, it created uncertainty that construction could begin or that the state would be able to match existing federal funds.
And now we see that Denham is using that uncertainty to again attack the project:
California officials sought today to reassure congressional Republicans that the state will be able to match billions of dollars in federal funding for the state’s high-speed rail project, including a $180 million payment due in April….
Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican from the Central Valley, called today’s hearing of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials to investigate whether the federal government should continue funding the project while California’s money is tied up. Denham, who has sought to block further funding, noted that the omnibus budget bill Congress was to begin voting today contains no money for high-speed rail.
This is basically a protection racket, without the protection. Denham is successfully undermining the project and is getting help from the media to do so, as reporters almost never point out that Denham was a key player in the effort to defund HSR. He passes himself off as some neutral observer in this hearing, but the media is failing to do their job when they do not mention that he is the reason HSR lacks more federal funding.
Denham’s threats can be easily fixed by the state legislature adopting Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to use $250 million in cap-and-trade funds for high speed rail each year. That would ensure the state has no problem meeting its federal obligations while also helping satisfy the judge and get beyond the lawsuit.
Which is why it is so mind-boggling that any California environmentalist would help the Tea Party kill CO2 reduction efforts by criticizing that cap-and-trade plan. More on that tomorrow.