Kathryn Phillips Versus the Sierra Club

Jan 17th, 2014 | Posted by

When it comes to fighting CO2 emissions, doing something meaningful to stop climate change, and reduce air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, it’s hard to find a better ally than the Sierra Club. Right now some of their most high profile work is involved in stopping fossil fuel supply. They’re leaders in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, hoping to keep Alberta tar sands oil in the ground. They’re leaders in the fight against building new coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest in order to keep coal in the ground in Montana and Wyoming.

The Sierra Club also understands that it is equally important to reduce fossil fuel demand. For several years now the Sierra Club has been conducting a “Beyond Oil” campaign which is aimed at helping reduce demand for oil through steps that include new passenger rail lines. This includes high speed rail, which has been part of the Sierra Club’s national transportation policy for twenty years.

At the national, state, and local levels the Sierra Club has worked to implement that agenda. High speed rail is part of the Club’s Beyond Oil volunteer network plan. The Sierra Club was a leader in the effort to save Wisconsin’s high speed rail project in 2010 and 2011 when Scott Walker tried, and succeeded, in killing it.

Sierra Club California has also stood for high speed rail. In 2008 they endorsed Prop 1A to build the high speed rail project in part because of its role in reducing CO2 emissions:

Sierra Club supports Proposition 1A, which would provide $9.95 billion dollars to catalyze the development of the 800 mile High-Speed Rail (HSR) system, and to make improvements to existing rail networks. Building HSR in California will reinforce our cities as the hubs of our economies, promote sustainable land use, significantly reduce global warming pollution, and get commuters off congested roads and out of crowded airports. While it is an extremely expensive project, adding the same capacity by expanding highways and airports would cost at least twice as much.

Given the above background, it seems that Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California, is out of step with her organization’s policies and goals. Her position, that HSR should not receive cap-and-trade funds because long-term CO2 emission reduction should not be a priority, flies in the face of the national Sierra Club’s positions and goals. It flies in the face of Sierra Club California’s previous support for the project. And it flies in the face of political reality.

If she succeeds in blocking the use of cap-and-trade funds for California HSR, she will hand the Tea Party a major victory and deal a huge blow to efforts to get beyond oil and reduce carbon emissions. It will become much more difficult to fund high speed rail in Congress and in California, shackling the state and the nation to more CO2 emissions and more fossil fuel burning to move cars and planes across the hundreds of miles that separate major metropolitan areas.

Phillips, locked in an austerity mindset that holds we only have so much money to go around, will not find that without HSR all those billions magically go to one of her other priorities. That money goes away, especially the federal stimulus money. Prop 1A bonds go away too. There’s no repurposing those for any other needs. That’s at least $13 billion that is flushed down the drain, billions that could have gone instead to CO2 reduction and moving California beyond oil.

Sierra Club members understand these things. And some of them aren’t happy about Phillips’ comments. After her public comments questioning Governor Jerry Brown’s use of cap-and-trade funds for HSR, I heard from several Sierra Club members, from across the state of California, expressing concern and in one case anger at what Phillips said. None of them wished to be quoted, and I understand that, though I hope they are sharing their concerns with their fellow Club members and not just with me. In fact, it was pointed out to me that Phillips was speaking only for herself, and that Sierra Club California had not taken any formal position on the governor’s proposal. The formal position of Sierra Club California on high speed rail remains one of support, for the reasons they gave in 2008 when endorsing Prop 1A.

It is my hope that the national Sierra Club, as well as others active in the organization and in California, take the opportunity to bring Phillips back into the fold of fighting oil consumption and fighting climate change, rather than watching as she uses the club’s good name to make common cause with the Tea Party.

  1. Keith Saggers
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 09:30

    “Kathryn Phillips leads lobbying and regulatory advocacy” Sierra Club
    She is a director not the executive director

    Joe Reply:

    She’s de facto setting policy when speaking to reporters.

    If this is a personal view and not the Orgs position then she should be reprimanded.

    And a senior exec should know better than to shoot off from the hip on policy for cap and trade.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I dunno about “reprimanded,” I’m trying not to be an asshole here, but I think she is significantly out of step with her organization and its stated priorities. I hope she realizes that and comes back to the carbon reduction movement.

    zoom314 Reply:

    I’ll go a step farther, I think Kathryn Phillips should be Fired from the Sierra Club of California, reprimanded, She may as well be a Republican/bagger, a collaborator in short.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Why in the world are the most ardent supporters of the HSR authority so freaking insane?

    joe Reply:

    “…because I routinely speak for my employer with no repercussions. “

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Your response is rather helping to support my question.

    Joe Reply:

    Employers and organizations that lobby on behalf of membership expect some consistency from executives and employees on issues where the org holds an official policy.

    Those who think otherwise are free to post comments on their employer’s behalf.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You seem to have made a small mistake — your question would have been meaningful had you written “opponents”, but you wrote “supporters”.

    Eric Reply:

    As a general principle, the most ardent ___ of ___ are all pretty insane :)

    Joe Reply:

    I hope the Sierra Club uses a concensus approach to policy and that executives show restraint on issues for which they also represent in an official capacity.

    Susan G Komen for the Cure is a good example of how years of hard work can be undone by executives conflating their personal ambitious and goals with the organization.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …except she is part of the carbon reduction movement. I know radical environmentalists who attack the mainstream environmental movement for focusing only on energy and CO2 to the exclusion of endangered species and such. She just disagrees with you on carbon reduction strategies.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Well, we think so. As of yet, I have yet to hear anyone say what Sierra Club has a carbon reduction strategy.

    Joe Reply:

    Radical is speaking for others without seeking consent.

    zoom314 Reply:

    And that’s what Kathryn Phillips seems to be doing, She should resign, as She is ignoring the long term goals for short term temporary gains…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s really not radical. It’s quite conventional, in fact.

    But if the Sierra Club wants to discuss amongst itself what to do with the money, I’m all for it. I doubt the membership will support 19% for HSR, but I don’t know this for a fact.

    And neither do you and Robert.

    joe Reply:

    Like Kathryn, I do not know what people think.

    I do know is there are policies and formulas for the allotment of resources to mitigate carbon and none I know of (I’m a earth scientist who studied hydrology and carbon sequestration) none I know if use your measure.

    Your argument against using using 19% is not serious, not founded in any scientific argument or plan. It’s really a numerical atheistic and criticism from a non-resident foreigner.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Am I the only one confused by the liberals being the ones to invoke the “Dirty foreigners” card?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Liberals”? Hardly. Just “stupids”.


    Joe Reply:

    You wrote dirty foreigner.

    Pontificating about California Sierra club members – why wouldn’t residing in the state and / or bring native to a culture matter ? It’s the opinion of a guy who doesn’t and I believe hasn’t lived here or raised in the culture.

    It is Gilroy logic – I fully expect my son to study abroad to understand language and culture.

    Why would I want him to live somewhere and be miserable because he can’t adapt?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …and this is why I deeply loathe America: I get discriminated against in jobs and then am told to adapt. The Iraq War is why I hate America in my head; this is why I hate it from the guts.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Updated the post to reflect that. Her role is essentially that of an ED, and she’s been cited in the media as that, but you’re right that her title is indeed “Director.”

  2. synonymouse
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 13:16

    Sin City has new raison d’etre:


    Maybe you can get Max Hardcore to invest in supported duorail.

    Joe Reply:

    Don’t worry.

    All your bookmarks will still work after the move.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Another talking point for Richards and TehaVegaSkyRail.

    Now they just have to ship that “drought emergency” water ripped off from the Delta past those San Joaquin Valley farmers on down to Palmdale developers.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The water bond is still really dependent on how much you can enlarge Shasta and Trinity Dams. After that, it’s back to DWP’s plan from the 1960s to build a pipeline to British Columbia….

    zoom314 Reply:

    A pipeline past the mighty Cascade range and its volcanic magma chambers? It would have to skirt way beyond there, get pacts with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, not to mention possibly the Canadian Government itself.

    I think desalinization might be cheaper and less risky…

    Travis D Reply:

    I worked out a plan for a system that went to the east of all that and crossed the Sierra Nevada south of Kirkwood. The added benefit of such a project would be that it would open up lots of land in Nevada for agriculture through irrigation.

    Howard Reply:

    It far less costly to recycle nonsalty urban wastewater than to desalinate seawater. The big costal cities, like SF and LA, need to rescycle their wastewater instead of dumping it in the ocean. It less importand for Central Valley cities to recycle their wastewater because their river dumped wastewater flows into the delta where it gets pumped out by the federal project and the central valley project, already being naturaly recycled. Many cities already use recyled wastewater for landscaping. Cleaned wastewater could be pumped up into a reservoir, stored and then cleaned for drinking water when needed. That is no different than Sacramento’s cleaned wastewater dumped into the Sacramento river, that flowes into the delta, getting pumped out by the California project and sent to San Jose, where it is cleaned for drinking water, today.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Recycling waste water is already done in Southern California. However, some areas are better suited for it. Because of geography, however they tend to be already very dense, urban, and poor. Trying to do waste water recycling in Palmdale would more difficult. But even so, there has to be water pumped in to recycle in the first place and that is where the arid South is vulnerable.

  3. Resident
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 15:38

    “In 2008 they endorsed Prop 1”

    In 2008 CHSRA was still peddling the grossly false assumptions that the system would be COMPLETE by 2020, (written in to AB3034), AND the ludicrously inflated 100M+ per year ridership assumptions which were generating massively overstated promises of green house savings in quantity AND in timing.

    So any endorsements that any organization was giving in 2008 were made on incorrect premises and are and should be out the window based on the current truth for this project. (I’d like to see their updated endorsements of the HSR project based on the current realities, has that been published?)

    For an organization to come out now and say their priority for use of cap and trade funds are projects that will net tangible improvements by 2020, and not to throw money down the bottomless money pit of CHSR for some lie/wish/prayer environmental improvements some god-only-knows-when timeframe down the road, is entirely reasonable prioritization of the their hard won cap and trade funds.

    Additionally, we only get Roberts characterizations of her statements, but where are her actual statements? Sorry for being a little distrustful of the CHSRA head cheerleader spin machine’s interpretation of those statements.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are going to need all the cap and trade chump change they can lay hands on to replace the dead fish occasioned by sending NorCal water to Beverly Hills, Palm Springs, etc. to keep the swimming pools flush.

    Joe Reply:

    Wrote the man who drinks and flushes with water piped in from Yosemite.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ours comes out of the Russian River.

    You want the City; you have to lose Hetch Hetchy Valley. You want another effing LA at Palmdale the environmental penalty will be worse.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Rohnert Park actually gets most of its supply from groundwater.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not in RoPo.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It might be water from the river that is banked underground, but certainly, it was pumped out of the ground. Nothing else is feasible.

    Michael Reply:

    Everyone in the world should know where their water comes from and where their waste goes. Having grown up on the lower Russian River, where they get water after most of the rest of the North Bay takes their water out and dumps some tertiary effluent back in, I’m a bit dismayed that one who posts on infrastructure issues is unclear on where their water comes from. It comes from the Russian River watershed via the Sonoma County Water Agency. Even Synonymouse knows that! ; )


    Ted Judah Reply:

    That diagram you linked to is exactly what I described above.

    Groundwater pumped out from a streambed is still groundwater. It’s replenished by the Russian River, but there is probably overdraft that happens.

    Resident Reply:


    In fact, to the point of what Kathryn Phillip’s ACTUALLY says about this matter, here’s a link to detailed letter from her to Sierra Club members dating all the way back to April 2012, where she is already at that point stating their concerns about the potential for using cap & trade funds for the project. Seems completely consistent with the quotes I read in the last couple days with regard to her reaction to Brown’s budget.

    All the way back to 2012 she clearly reconciles that position with Sierra Club’s generally favorable position on HSR and hopes that Dan Richards will address their concerns with the project.

    Roberts post here is much ado about nothing – Sierra club membership has apparently had plenty of time to digest her/their position and ‘bring her back in to the fold’ as Robert puts it – if they really were so disagreeable to her position about cap and trade priorities (according to Robert and his secret sources.)

    Wonder who his secret sources are, who seem to so unhappy with Sierra Club’s prioritization for cap & trade funds.

    joe Reply:

    “Sierra club membership has apparently had plenty of time to digest her/their position.”

    No, or her comments would not have been news. The Sierra Club would have issued a release about the Sierra Clubs consensus position.

    People including other executives had some words stuffed into their collective mouths by Kathryn and she’s going to have to sell this to the rank and file.

    I suggest they try raise money with a “We don’t want HSR” campaign. You’d give would you?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Where do I sign the re-vote petition? Bunch of friends also interested.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Thanks for that link to Ms Phillips statements.
    Politicizing the debate, ie, “the Tea Party vs everyone else”
    (or vs 200mph HSR afficionados), speculative claims that any funding loss is permanent, etc etc,
    only harm the debate. Most rail advocates favor reliably practical passenger-rail service before doubly expensive, high impact 200mph HSR. The IOS Fresno-to-Madera segment accomplishes nothing,
    thus should not be considered an acceptable IOS (initial operating segment). The Madera-to-Gilroy-to-SanJose segment has huge environmental impact and will probably induce more suburban sprawl than the HSR can handle. To have these legitimate concerns dismissed as radical rightwing obstructionism foments distrust on all sides.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The point that the loss of THESE Federal funds would be permanent is not speculative, its quite straightforward. There is no prospect in this Congress to get the Stimulus II HSR funding extended by legislation for expenditure in some indefinite time in the future when California gets its act together. You shut down your HSR project for a couple of years while sorting out the Prop1a(2008) compliance, you lose that federal funding.

    As to whether additional federal funding will become available, that is surely speculative, but its obvious that the prospects are brighter if California has successfully built the sections they applied for Federal Funding for than if they turned down $b’s in Federal funding awarded already and then come back to the Federal government for funding after getting your act together.

    Lewellan Reply:

    I believe starting any construction project on the cheap is detestable. Highway department honchos have pulled this same stunt way too many times. It’s better to start an IOS with a minimal guarantee that its completion will be productive. Madera-to-Fresno produces little and leaves opponents feeling like the gubmint is dictatorial, and supporters wondering which Central Valley conservative contractors and land speculators are making out like bandits. The CAHSR Authority has botched this project already in too many ways. To trust them further is out of the question.

  4. Roger Christensen
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 15:58

    Heard today on Fresno right wing radio: “Pray for rain and stop the train.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Pray for rain and fix the train. May Jerry see a cross in the sky over Tejon and find his way to high speed epiphany and salvation. Not holding my breath – he’s no Constantine.

    Observer Reply:

    Just a note: I was looking at google maps to do a little comparison – Tejon vs Tehachapi, and I notice that while shorter – using Tejon would run through more farmland than Tehachapi. This could be why certain San Joaquin Valley interest pushed Tehachapi over Tejon. Now the CHSRA is looking for ways to straighten out the Bakersfield – Palmdale route.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Following 99?

    Observer Reply:

    Yes. From Bakersfield to just about where it meets I-5.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Farmland in Lebec?

    I think Barry Zoeller has plans for a golf course and a shitload of McTracts.

    And Mac says Bako has official plans to sprawl all the way to I-5.

    Observer Reply:

    Lebec is not on HWY 99, it is on I-5. There is farmland from Bakersfield to where it meets I-5 – and plenty of it. Lebec is south of where HWY 99 meets I-5 and south of the farmland.

    Observer Reply:

    Would changing the route to that portion open another can of worms ala Kings County???

    synonymouse Reply:

    It has been some years since I have seen that area, but what I remember was rolling tumbleweeds. And an extended drought is not going to change that. And Bako is already planning to develop that area, just like Palmdale the high desert.

    That’s not the problem; the Tejon Ranch Co. does not want the wrong demographic they think hsr, mostly in tunnel to boot, would introduce into their resort kingdom.

    Observer Reply:

    There is nothing worst than Fresno right ring radio. Really embarrassing .

  5. StevieB
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 16:07

    Rep Zoe Lofgren Testifies in Support of CA High Speed Rail.


    Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), the Chair of the 38-member California Democratic Congressional Delegation, delivered the following testimony in support of CA High Speed Rail before a January 15, 2014, hearing on California’s High Speed Rail project by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

    Observer Reply:

    Finally an honest and intelligent person speaking sense.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Robert still banging on about the “austerity mindset”, but in the same paragraph writes that not spending the 1A bonds and the fed stimulus money is “flushing $13 billion down the drain.” Not sure how that works actually. Not spending money raised from bonds that haven’t been issued which avoids saddling the next generation with debt is not exactly flushing money down the drain. Not spending money to start to build a transportation system that delivers no transportation for 20 years (or carbon reduction for that matter) and will require subsidy when it does seems like common sense to me. We need solutions to real transportation problems such as urban congestion, and we need them soon.

    joe Reply:

    Advocating for HSR since 1980.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    And back then we made the assumption that we would be building systems in the urban areas as a foundation for the “trunk”. Back then no one in their right mind would have advocated building Fresno to Bakersfield first, still less claiming that it was a viable, stand alone segment. And back then you would have been laughed at for advocating building to Palmdale and then using the Soledad Canyon route to access Los Angeles. One stupidity piled on top of another until you have a project that is indefensible, no matter what the theoretical benefits of HSR might be.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Back then, when HSR never got built. Brown is proving Marx’s famed adage that all of history happens twice with the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

    joe Reply:

    “Back then no one in their right mind would have advocated building Fresno to Bakersfield first, ”

    The proposition itself, which the voters approved, prioritized easier to build HSR usable segments first. Bakersfield to Fresno is perfectly acceptable – it’s part of tax paying California.

    We have this project, which I want to influence to minimize dependence on park and ride at the stations OR Nothing. We’ve had nothing for a few decades.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    We see how easy it is to build that segment, look at the progress made! Trouble is, when eventually completed, Fresno – Bakersfield has de minimus transportation value, not even to the taxpayers of Fresno and Bakersfield.
    Who says Los Angeles to Sylmar would not have been “easy to build”? At least we have most of the right of way.
    If you really thought about it Joe, you would realize that prioritizing the easiest to build segments dooms you to failure. You end up with disconnected, stranded segments of no value for transportation and a taxpaying electorate pissed off and wondering where the money went.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    What is the value of a bookend segment in LA or the Bay Area to the rest of the State. HSR isn’t a solution for our feckless commuter rail systems or our lack of transit funding. It is for intercity purposes.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s the use of a disconnected segment in the Central Valley to anyone, commuter or otherwise?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not supposed to be “intercity”, read TEE or the like; it is promised in Prop 1a to be genuine high speed rail. It may not be Buck Rogers or maglev but it is to be bleeding edge, not AmBART. Competitive with air between SF and LA and thus able to break even. Even Morales is talking “straightening”, whatever that means in the collective mind of PB.

    The orphan segment, I suggest perhaps, was the offspring of Van Ark’s joke to goad the unresponsive into some action, namely Borden to Corcoran. It was not meant to be taken literally, just a token, what you could get with the little funds available. But his true intent was seen shortly – the call to revisit Tejon with the clear insinuation the mountain segment should be the focus of attention and the real first segment.

    We are stuck in time at the point of Van Ark’s departure so far as rationalizing the project is concerned. Brown & Co. tried to placate the restless Demos and in particular unhappy PAMPA with the bookends. My presumption is that the bookends will survive, because otherwise you will have some extra discontented Demos motivated to question whether CAHSR should continue on its current path.

    As far as the Judge goes, I cannot imagine his not addressing the subsidy issue. It would be insulting his intelligence.

    joe Reply:

    “What’s the use of a disconnected segment in the Central Valley to anyone, commuter or otherwise?”

    It’s the first and more affordable useable segments in the system and one of the easier ones to build – that’s exactly what Prop1A prioritizes. Bookends are Ends –

    They’ve been bookends for years and none’s extended them to the CV – there’s no credibility with the argument that Commuter systems will evolve into intercity rail.

    zoom314 Reply:

    Joey the CV segments will be connected to the BNSF for a bit, much like the 5 was connected to other highways when the 5 was under construction, so get over it, HSR will be built.

    Joey Reply:

    Joey the CV segments will be connected to the BNSF for a bit, much like the 5 was connected to other highways when the 5 was under construction, so get over it, HSR will be built.

    I’m sorry. I assumed that 6 Amtrak runs per day didn’t constitute adequate utilization of new grade separated 350 km/h track. How silly of me.

    It’s the first and more affordable useable segments in the system and one of the easier ones to build

    Right, except for the usable part.

    zoom314 Reply:

    Do you have a link to back up that disgusting right-wing sounding meme Joey? And I don’t mean from anything other than a government source. Fox & KOCH sites don’t count as legitimate in the least. Anything from the right wing is disgusting…

    Paul Druce Reply:

    zoom314, I really do suggest lurking more to get a sense of who the regular commenters are and the issues under discussion rather than jumping out half cocked. I might also suggest that if you want to get conservatives to listen to you, you act a bit more politely. As a pro-HSR conservative, I find it quite annoying for you to go about how “anything from the right wing is disgusting…”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What meme, zoom314? The one that says that it’s not good use of HSR infrastructure to run a few Amtraks per day that can’t even get to LA because of Tehachapi Loop capacity problems? Because if you think it is good use, then maybe you should provide links instead of ask Joey to provide one.

    Rail isn’t the same as roads, especially not in the US. When the Interstates were built, drivers could use good roads from the 1930s and 40s to access areas that the Interstates hadn’t yet been extended to. The rail equivalent for HSR is a reasonably fast electrified legacy rail system. This exists in Europe – the TGV used legacy tracks for a third of the way from Paris to Lyon when it opened, and continued on legacy tracks to Marseille until the HSR line was extended to Marseille 20 years later. It doesn’t exist in the US outside the Northeast, Keystone, and kind of sort of Empire Corridors (Empire is fast enough, but isn’t electrified).

    The existing legacy rail line into LA, the equivalent of the pre-Interstate roads that drivers could use while I-5 opened in segments, is the Tehachapi line, possibly the busiest single-track freight line in the US. It has no capacity for passenger trains, and even if it did, travel times would be unreasonably long, not at all competitive with driving over I-5. Freight trains take 5 hours to get from Bakersfield to LA, and passenger trains hauled by diesel locomotives couldn’t be sped up much because of tight curves through the mountain crossings; Metrolink’s fastest express trains from Palmdale to LA do the trip in 1:35, which is 110 km out of a rail line that’s about 270 km long. If it’s the same average speed, then it’s 4 hours LA-Bako. Driving over I-5 takes 2 hours. The core segment of HSR is and always has been the LA approach, which is impossible to upgrade incrementally; this is why California chose to undertake the HSR project in the first place, rather than incrementally upgrade Amtrak the way Illinois plans to.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    zoom314, I really do suggest lurking …

    “zoom314” = “VBobier”.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    Your point is well taken, but it actuaylstrengthens the point I was making.

    No commuter service will ever use the Loop, and it is not within an urban footprint. CAHSR in theory will solve the passenger rail problem, but no one seems to know what will happen in regard to freight capacity.

    The rub is that the program management arm of Southern Pacific/Union Pacific, Catellus Development, deliberately sold off much of the old urban right of ways it owned at the end of the 1980s after the US Department of Justice rejected its merger proposal with AT&SF in 86 or 87. Public agencies have had 20+ years to upgrade and improve these lines, and yet, nothing has happened.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Alan Levy’s (summarized) statement, “The core segment of HSR has always been the LA approach, impossible to upgrade incrementally and why California chose HSR in the first place,” fails to address the more pertinent debate regarding Tejon vs Tehachapi. Tejon is a bit faster and less expensive, and,
    Tehachapi Antelope Valley/Palmdale residents/patrons don’t need HSR.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Joey, whichever alignment is used to get into the Bay, and whichever alignment is used to get into the LA Basin, the CV segment is the appropriate connection between them, and with the CV segment in place any connection from the CV to either end becomes a viable Initial Operating Segment. Plus offers the required test corridor to establish FRA regulations for 220mph trains in the US.

    If there is any substantial project risk at all, the common core which is usable whether the project proceeds along the current planned alignment or whether the project halts and is restarted on an alternative alignment, and which is usable for intercity transport in the interim in any event would be the ideal first segment to build using a fixed pot of federal money.

    The plan of shutting the whole thing down without getting anything built and then hoping to get “the perfect project” started at some later date represents the incredibly naive premise that status quo conditions are going to continue for an indefinite number of decades into the future and California can afford to wait another ten to fifty years before getting started on a main trunk electric transport connection between LA and SF.

    Joey Reply:

    Starting in the CV is a done deal, but it was a mistake we should be careful not to repeat. The next segment built should be oriented toward the goal of running electrified intercity passenger service at perhaps 200 km/h with reasonable ridership projections. Terminating at Palmdale isn’t going to cut it.

    joe Reply:

    Where is this perfect useable segment and how is it funded?

    The current CV segment is completely consistent with Prop1A that prioritizes low cost, easy to build useable segments. The relative simplicity helps meet ARRA time constraints.

    The CV segment under construction, the first segment, is common to both the Northern IOS and Southern IOS. Another benefit as it provides flexibility between extending either N or S in future construction. A common core segment to both. I can see why this was selected.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lewellan, first, my name isn’t Alan. And second, what I said about the core segment is independent of Tejon vs. Tehachapi. As you know, I’m pro-Tejon. But this doesn’t change the fact that a CV-only segment is not useful, and the analogy to building the Interstates in stages completely breaks down given the state of the tracks between Bakersfield and LA.

    And Joe, it is not true that the CV is common to both IOSes. In fact it misses both IOSes. The minimal IOS-South connects LA to Bakersfield. Connecting it to Fresno further would be very useful, but not necessary. Likewise, the minimal IOS-North connects San Francisco with Stockton and Modesto; Merced (too small) and Fresno (too far) are much less important, and Bakersfield even less so.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    You will love the 2014 biz plan, due out in the next month or so. It apparently features Madera to Palmdale with an alleged 8 million riders as the key initial service, that will then unlock $20 billion of private investment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Google says Modesto is 92 miles from San Francisco. That’s not far enough away to need HSR. It would be nice but it’s not needed. There aren’t enough people in Modesto to make it worthwhile unless it’s along the way to Fresno, Bakersfield and eventually Los Angeles.

    joe Reply:

    “And Joe, it is not true that the CV is common to both IOSes. ”

    It is true – the South IOS starts at Merced.
    The North starts at Bakersfield.

    I was just looking at the 2011 funding plan today in see WTF Morris was thinking.

    joe Reply:

    Page 9

    Alon Levy Reply:

    After they redefined the IOS to need the chosen CV segment, yes. But there’s an external reality outside the business plans.

    joe Reply:

    There are two IOS described, North and South. The IOS overlap along Central Valley segment under construction.

    This core construction is IOS neutral. That may have helped approve funding.

    Note that US Reps speaking in favour of the HSR system at Denham’s hearing were Anaheim and Bay Area aka the bookends, as well as CV’s Costa.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please don’t talk to me as if I haven’t read the business plans. I know what the official proposals for an IOS are. What I’m saying is that an IOS doesn’t need to be as long: it needs to include a mountain crossing and connect two cities, preferably LA to Bakersfield, but SF to Modesto and Stockton is also a possibility because of the large commuter flows from Modesto and Stockton to the Bay Area. The business plan includes a lot of things that aren’t necessary but are put there anyway to justify prior decisions made, in this case the decision to start in the CV.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The way this works is, if we build it now, we get the benefit of the $13 billion. If we don’t, we get nothing.

    At the federal level, there is no “saddling the next generation with debt”, that’s austerity-minded fantasy thinking.

    We print money at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Federal “debt” isn’t debt, it’s money — it’s T-bills, a service to rich people who want to earn interest on their money. We could issue a quadrillion dollars in T-bills and the only effect would be that we would pay less interest on them.

    There is no “debt” when it comes to a sovereign issuer of a fiat currency, despite the bafflegab spread about it by financiers.

    And that’s why you’re engaged in the austerity mindset. You can’t get yourself to understand how money actually works for a money-printing government. Yes, California isn’t a money-printing government at the moment (though it’s proved that it *can* be if it *wants* to), but the federal government certainly is.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If your argument were true then why is the otherwise militant socialist government in France now moving to cut its budget to push the “enterprise”? Why not just print some more Euros and build a bunch of hsr?

    Keynesianism seems to be a kind of mystical transcendental religion. But the truth of the stimulus QE is emerging: most all of the $85bi/mo. goes right back on deposit at the Fed. And the trillion plus per year spent on QE is inconsequential in relation to the trillions of liquidity already out there. That’s why the stimulus, tapering and all, is a non-event. Now the reappearance of loosy-goosy mortgages and the newest iteration of derivatives should result in another dump of real estate values down the line. Remember crises don’t happen until the hoi polloi feel confident.

    The DogLeg is an albatross – soon divested to the scrapper because the State guvmint can no longer afford the subsidy. What happened to Conrail? What happened to the Queretaro catenary?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Something happened to Conrail? Last I heard it’s quite contently serving CSX and NS. It’s a pity the free market fetishists made us sell most of it off. It would make building faster passenger train service a lot easier if the government still owned the right of way.

    synonymouse Reply:

    ok by me – I never approved of the re-privatization. But the pols, right or left, want to spend the money on other things more important to them. Social spending trumps freight trains.

    But Queretaro really did happen. When things go south, and private operators take over, they get rid of what they consider unnecessary, dead weight. Who would buy the DogLeg? 40 miles of tunnel to Mojave?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    What does Nathanael’s argument have to do with France? France does not have a sovereign economy with a sovereign currency, they have a sub-sovereign economy with a broken monetary system unconnected with any coherent federal European fiscal authority.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I thought the coherent monetary policy was “make sure the Germans get paid back”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    If there is no debt for a sovereign issuer then why did Argentina collapse
    Or Germany twice (both inflasion and deflasion)
    Or Japan’s current troubles…they have a debt of 200% of GDP, but the economy is not well at all, going on 4 decades of stagnation/deflasion
    Or Mexico in the 80s
    Or the Asian money crisis

    The list goes on and on. National debt matters

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Debt matters if you aren’t issuing a reserve currency. Although piling up debt isn’t the smartest thing for the US to do, it routinely exports its debt to other countries. The Austerity advocates don’t seem to be worried about this part of the equation, even though it is something Congress can rein in easily.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Argentina couldn’t print money because it was pegged to the dollar.

    Japan… four decades? Are you insane? Thirty years ago it was rapidly growing and was soon to take over the world. In 1990 people said that the Cold War’s open and Japan won.

    Germany collapsed once. That was deflation, not inflation. Hyperinflation led to a successful stabilization plan. The Depression, during which Germany stayed on the gold standard and didn’t engage in fiscal stimulus, led to some ugly people gaining power.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Argentina. They unpegged it, defaulted on the debt, and overthrew the government. I think that counts as “downside”

    Japan was going to take over the world in the 80s. By the 90s the slide had begun and I said “going on 4 decades”. (90, 00, 10, soon 20). But I won’t quibble. 3 decades of bad economy thanks to believing that government spending = good economy.

    Germany. Again, I would argue but it does not matter if it was 1 collapse or 2 it is an example of why debt matters

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and for the past 40 years we’ve been following the gospel according to Saint Ronnie. Deregulation along with lowering taxes on rich people is going to unleash the magic powers of free markets making us all rich. How’s that working out?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not working out, but that is what the public wants – high risk investments. They got sold on the 401K scam. You did not mention that at all. It is instructive how doctrinaire liberals love 401k’s as much as they worship the ground Nancy Pelosi walks on.

    To feed 401k’s and the like you absolutely need high risk-high yield investments. Ergo some variation of the derivative concept. They will return from the dead because without them you cannot enjoy, for a while, the buzzed economy the public considers normal. A steady state, stagflated, moribund economy just won’t do politically and socially. Madoff lives because rich suckers love him.

    It is complicated; in California and the West you have nannyworld and house unions and anti-manufacturing apparatchicks. Boeing in Washington will be toast. Low wage, no laws, third world industrialization killed the prosperity of king of the hill Fifties America. Reagan used to be a liberal but turned McCarthyite and grew to hate the unions. Just the way it is.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Soon 20”? That’s 16 years from now! The stagnation began in 1990, so you can’t call it 40 years until the fourth decade has ended, certainly not when it’s just begun.

    But it’s not even really 24. Japan had no economic growth in the 1990s. But in the 2000-7 business cycle, it had about the same per capita GDP growth as the US. That’s one lost decade followed by low but positive growth.

    Germany’s history matters a great deal. It went Nazi specifically because the government refused to engage in deficit spending and raise the debt, fearing a repeat of the hyperinflation episode even though the Depression was deflationary. No deficit spending led to high unemployment. High unemployment led to resentment with the system, and to the working class voting for communists, who wouldn’t join in a grand coalition with the liberal and Christian Democratic parties, rather than for the social democrats, who would. When Germany actually had hyperinflation, the democratic regime survived, the Nazis’ involvement was a comically failed coup attempt, and in the subsequent years until the Depression the economy boomed.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Geez, Argentina collapsed because it’s debt was held in dollars not pesos. U.S. debt is in dollars. And who holds most of that debt? Hint: It’s not China.

    (U.S. citizens hold the majority of U.S. debt.)

    Mexico and the Asian were similar: Debt held in dollars.

    And what about Japan? Again, it’s debt is held in yen, the majority of it by its own citizens. And it’s economy has never collapsed although it has been stagnant for a very long time (but not because of its debit!)

    joe Reply:

    She represents Gilroy – at least the part I live in. The city got split in the non-political redistricting – I think the track is in the other district by 300 meters. Congressional Districts 19 and 20. Congressman Farr has the tracks.

  6. Reedman
    Jan 17th, 2014 at 19:27

    If the Sierra Club is anti-carbon, does that mean they are pro-nuclear?

    Howard Reply:

    We need carbon free nuclear power to power California High Speed Rail.

    joe Reply:

    Renewables like Solar power do not require long lead times for construction or decommissioning fees with 10,000-100,000 year waste disposal sites. Solar is cost competitive now.

    zoom314 Reply:

    Solar Thermal is superior to Nuclear, takes less time to build and requires land like solar or wind does, and could be built in enough quantity in the California deserts to power the whole USA, 24/7…

    zoom314 Reply:

    Also Solar Thermal is superior to Photovoltaic, since Solar Thermal stores power at night as thermal energy that drives a dynamo 24/7 and can even be used on cloudy days.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i would not call 5-10x more expensive “superior”


    Alon Levy Reply:

    *1.5 times as expensive. Still a good reason to prefer rooftop PV installations, but don’t overstate the cost difference.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yeah I messed that up. 1-2x was the correct thing to write (13.5 cents versus 25 cents). My bad

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Solar thermal is quite inferior to nuclear, especially if you are using molten salts to try and store the heat overnight.

    zoom314 Reply:

    You’re forgetting something very basic Paul, nuclear power depends on radioactive metals for power that once spent need to be stored for many, many human lifetimes, solar thermal does not have this problem at all, so unless one stores the radioactive waste products on the moon, there is no really safe place on earth, since the earth is an active planet that reshapes itself from time to time.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’m not forgetting a single solitary thing. Nuclear waste is quite easily disposed of (and just what do you think needs to be done with those molten salts in solar thermal; they’re not exactly environmentally friendly), and can even be recycled. For the truly paranoid, the active reshaping of the planet actually aids their safe disposal: Drop the containers into a subduction zone.

    joe Reply:

    Nuclear waste is quite easily disposed of (and just what do you think needs to be done with those molten salts in solar thermal; they’re not exactly environmentally friendly),

    A CFC light-bulb isn’t environmentally friendly but I wouldn’t equate it to nuclear power plant. Does the DOE have a program and blue ribbon panel to recommend how to dispose of Salts?

    The decommissioning of a nuclear plant is evidence enough they are a massive undertaking and impossible to fully clean up afterwards.

    Nuclear waste – where do we dispose it? We don’t. It’s piling up isn’t it?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Only piling up because of illegal actions by the Obama administration.

    joe Reply:

    It was being stored in the same temporary places under the Bush Administration – same places.

    Scapegoating hasn’t worked. Eventually there’s a mishap and then the entire industry loses credibility.

    It’s clearly happening in Japan right now which is why boosters writing “no one was killed” “Once in a millennium” sets the industry back even further. Elderly workers volunteered to get life shortening exposure on site – the facility sits off a massive fault zone. Tsunami’s and earthquakes are 100% certainty over the facility life time.

    Reedman Reply:

    The #1 problem with nuclear power is that we use uranium. Liquid fuel thorium reactors are the better technology.

    joe Reply:

    In theory possibly but the technology is not yet matured enough to really know… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor#Difficulties

    It is very difficult to kick start nuclear R&D given the cost to do R&D, time to train a new generation of engineers and risks associated with the industry. Also the relative cost competitiveness and far easier to conduct R&D into solar and other renewables. You don’t need to be at Oak Ridge under secure conditions to research PV materials or battery chemistry. There’s a larger, dynamic community pushing and manufacturing efficiencies.

    Joe Reply:

    We’re not building nuclear any more for a good reason. It is not economical.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Odd then how numerous countries and companies think otherwise. Go make sure to tell the Tennessee Valley Authority, South Caroline Electric & Gas, and Georgia Power that nuclear isn’t economical to build.

    joe Reply:

    Not economical – surging ahead to new lows. Where’s the rush to build?
    Not here.

    Here’s nuclear denial in one sad sentence:
    The once-in-a-millennium event at the Fukushima reactor killed nobody, although the tsunami claimed 16,000 lives. However, it was enough to panic Germany’s green middle class. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10577513/Germany-is-a-cautionary-tale-of-how-energy-polices-can-harm-the-economy.html

    The investments in solar and battery technology dwarf what’s being invested into Nuclear. Whether we store with battery or thermal ora mix, it’s going to happen and it’s economical.

    Japan’s mishap, lost land and ongoing burdens counts as part of the economic cost of nuclear power. Companies want no part of that risk. It’s not economical.

    wdobner Reply:

    Good thing we’re not foolish enough to make decisions as important as those regarding our energy sources based on ignorant fear, right? Oh wait, we do. That’s why we’re having to build a fossil fuel plant for every solar or wind turbine installation. It’s also why you can’t drink the water WV.

    Comparing the 1970s vintage reactors currently on offer from Westinghouse and GE will inevitably look worse than the competing technologies developed in the intervening 40 years. But nuclear reactors haven’t exactly stood still either, they’ve just been stifled by the AEC and Big Oil. Genuine Gen IV reactors offer far greater safety, economy, and environmental impact than the Gen 3+ light water reactors built to this point. Of course the real lesson of Fukushima is not that nuclear is dangerous, but that obsolete nuclear plants are. Two newer reactors closer to the epicenter survived intact. So if you want to ameliorate the concerns of nuclear power plants, build more nuclear power plants.

    joe Reply:

    Let’s get the facts straight.

    The mishap in Japan, the earthquake, had a 90% certainty of happening along the active fault within the lifetime of the power plant. When proponents say it was a 1/1,000 event – they are lying.

    The mishap at the reactor was not due to the nuclear reactor being damaged directly by earthquake nor a vintage design. The facility lost power, The backup power system never turned on and batteries ran out.

    There’s a 40 year-old nuclear reactor cooling-down right now in Japan following the big earthquake in that country. Actually there are 11 such reactors cooling-down, automatically brought offline by the 8.9 temblor, but one of those reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi generating plant is not going gracefully and 3000 people have been moved from their homes as a precaution.

    That Japanese reactor shut down automatically within seconds of the earthquake, the idea being that dropping the thermal load (stopping the nuclear reaction and cooling-down the reactor) would minimize risk overall from a huge plumbing system that was likely compromised and vulnerable. Radiation and the passage of time conspire to make pipes brittle and aftershocks make brittle pipes break. Not good.

    The 10 other reactors behaved as expected, but this unit didn’t. Once the reactor was no longer making steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity the plant was supposed to fire-up diesel generators to make the power needed to keep coolant pumps running. Only the diesels wouldn’t start. It can take up to seven days, you see, to get such a reactor down to where it can survive without circulating coolant. With the diesels out (under water perhaps?) the plant relied on batteries to run the pumps — batteries good for only eight hours.

    There are many ways these systems can fail and the consequences are horrendous.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’ve got the ignorance covered.
    Might as well outsource the fear.

    joe Reply:

    The scary paet hasn’t sunk in yet.
    It will take ten years to remove the fuel from the damaged reactor facilities. These rods must be cooled in place until then.


    Removal of the fuel from the reactors could take another ten years, according to expert estimates, while a full decommissioning profess could also last several decades.

    The probability of a 7.0+ earthquake in the next 10 years is 100%. The damaged reactor buildings (from earthquake, tsunami, hydrogen explosions and fire) are high risk to fail. The nuclear rods are currently kept and cooled ia at high risk of failing. That would expose thefuel rods, they would heat, melt and then we’re going to glued to CNN.

    There are 1300 fuel rods them in various states.

    wdobner Reply:

    Let’s get the facts straight.

    Yes, lets. There are no facts contained within what you’ve posted on this subject here. Both the Fukushima Daini and Onagawa nuclear power plants were closer to the epicenter and took a stronger, more direct impact from the tsunami resulting from the Tohoku earthquake. The only difference is that both Onagawa and Fukushima Daini were newer plants with taller seawalls and redundant backup power facilities placed well above any potential wave height. Fukushima Daichi was older, had an inadequate seawall, and placed its backup power systems in the path of any wave which managed to break over that seawall. So my point remains, new nuclear plants are safe, old plants are hazardous. If you want to be safe from nuclear power accidents, build new nuclear plants.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not an either/or ~ they are complementary, since the more Solar PV is installed, the more valuable the time shifting of Solar CSP becomes.

    Note that 24 hours is not necessarily the optimal storage capacity, though … 12hrs may be sufficient for early evening peak load shifting, in the context of a sustainable energy portfolio with a range of sustainable energy sources.

  7. Travis D
    Jan 18th, 2014 at 09:27

    This entire thing has sullied forever the image of The Sierra Club to me.

    I plan to cut off myself from them utterly and with prejudice if they do not reverse their course and recognize the severity of this mistake.

    Getting the HST built is way more important to me than every other goal their organization ostensibly supports.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A bald-faced real estate development scheme should be supported by an environmental group?

    Besides the Sierra Club obviously haszero juice with Jerry Brown. Now the Tejon Ranch Co. and Barry Zoeller, they own Jerry.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Lots of grass-roots groups are ‘astro-turf’ outfits that push the agenda of secret backers. The Sierra Club is the real thing. Members vote in elections for their officers, at all levels of the organization. The officers deliberate, often heatedly, before a position is adopted. Sometimes the entire membership votes.
    If Governor Brown proposes to use 19% of Cap and Trade funds for HSR, and ‘environmentalists’ immediately denounce the plan, it’s not the Sierra Club. It’ll take some time for the Sierra Club to weigh in.
    As for you, Travis, please let your local and state Sierra Club officers know how you feel. They do represent their members. There’s no Koch Brothers or Jack Abramoff pulling strings behind the scenes.

    Resident Reply:

    As mentioned above, her statements are not ‘news’. She put this position forth in a Sierra Club Letter from Sacramento all the way back in 2012. linked above. Please DO ask your local Sierra club officers if they appreciate Jerry Brown’s scam of Cap & Trade funds for the REAL version of HSR they are peddling now.

    joe Reply:

    She put this position forth in a Sierra Club Letter from Sacramento all the way back in 2012.

    Hmm … where? Not in this one http://california2.sierraclub.org/news/lettersfromsacramento/highspeedrail#.UtsQWPbTlFQ

    Sierra Club generally supports high-speed rail, and in 2008, Sierra Club California specifically endorsed the successful ballot measure, Proposition 1A, that authorized nearly $10 billion of state bond investment in a high-speed rail system. The bond campaign promised to build a system that would get travelers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes, without having to step foot into an airplane.

    But we are concerned about the California project, as we expressed in two letters earlier this year. This latest plan begins to address some of those concerns, but not enough to start celebrating. A lot of questions remain outstanding.

    Dan Richard is a master at marshalling resources and inspiring smart people to achieve good work fast. This latest business plan is an example. I’m confident that given another four months, he will address the unanswered environmental questions. And I hope he’ll be able to do it forthrightly, without creating environmental loopholes big enough to run a train through. </blockquote?

    Resident Reply:

    Yes, in that letter:

    “Yet the authority’s finance plan could prevent other environmentally favorable projects from occurring.

    The authority assumes the federal government will heavily chip in funds to build the rail over the next 10 to 15 years. It’s hard to fathom that will happen considering politics and budget woes in DC. But if it does, will there be any federal money left for California’s other needs, including transit buses and light rail?

    If the feds don’t provide all that hoped-for rail funding, then the authority plans to dip into state revenues collected from greenhouse gas emissions credit auctions. The first of those auctions will occur in November. Some estimate the auctions could yield tens of billions of dollars in new money for the state over several years. But they might not. It’s all new ground.

    Whatever money the auctions do generate, will have to be spent according to guidelines in AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. Generally, that means spending to get the most environmental benefits. This begs the question: Is spending that auction money on high-speed rail the best way to use those funds to reduce global warming pollution ASAP?”

    All the way to 2012 she’s stating that they will clearly not be supportive of ripping off cap & trade funds to throw down the 50 year money pit HSR, endangering funds for other shorter term uses.

    Again, this is non news, its a position they’ve clearly held for quite a while.

    Resident Reply:

    And, thanks for the quote – it illustrates just how far off base Robert’s mischaracterizations of her position are. They clearly support HSR, and hope that Dan Richards can answer their many concerns about the project. A position she clearly reconciles with their lack of support for using the cap & trade funds on HSR.

    joe Reply:

    You are most welcome.

    I don’t think the letter does validate any position on Cap and Trade since she srote this (above wuoted too)
    “The first of those auctions will occur in November. Some estimate the auctions could yield tens of billions of dollars in new money for the state over several years. But they might not. It’s all new ground.”

    The estimates for cap and trade are in and show tens of billions of dollars with a large bump in the billions in 2015. So no, the letter doesn’t establish a decision was made – in fact the contingency that cap and trade would not achieve estimates has NOT happened. There was no mention of limiting investments to 2020 either.

  8. Elizabeth
    Jan 18th, 2014 at 13:10

    Liquid natural gas plant in East Palo Alto?


    Anyone know anything about this?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Elizabeth, first para: “manufacture machines that make liquid natural gas”.
    So, a machine shop, not an LNG plant.
    The go-boom stuff will be in Somebody Else’s back yard.
    The combustion products will be in everybody’s atmosphere, US and third world, human and non-human alike.

    synonymouse Reply:

    San Bruno did go boom and some of those ex-PG&E guys are running DogLegRail.

    Edward Reply:

    According to the link this is to be a MANUFACTURER of liquid natural gas (LNG) plants, not a liquid natural gas plant. LNG plants compress and cool natural gas to liquify it so that LNG powered cars, trucks and buses can be fueled.

    These plants are installed at LNG stations… REAL gas stations. Don’t think refinery, think something that might fit in your garage.

    Reedman Reply:

    FYI –
    Spending $45 billion on LNG infrastructure, with $5 – $10 billion from the state government, can happen in some places.

  9. Keith Saggers
    Jan 19th, 2014 at 11:30

    Sun takes nap


    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    trentbridge Reply:

    Thru’ a spokesperson, the Sun announced that he’s gone quiet because he’s reviewing his options following his discovery that the Earth has no plans to compensate him for the use of his energy. He is quoted as saying: “Solar Energy is a finite resource – I can only spend so many billion years turning hydrogren into helium for your light and heat before the game is up and I exit this sequence and become a red giant. You don’t want to know what happens then..”

    A spokesman for the GOP said that the Sun’s use of the words “Red Giant” indicated the obvious Marxist core of the Sun’s belief system. i.e. Chinese technology. “Clearly this is blackmail and we urge President Obama to quit promoting solar energy until a House Committee decides whether the Sun is a security threat or not. “We want no Commie energy falling on these United States”, he added.

  10. joe
    Jan 19th, 2014 at 22:57

    Charge Rage.

    Too many electric cars, not enough workplace chargers creating tension on Silicon Valley tech campuses.

    Derek Reply:

    This is what happens when you “charge” below the market equilibrium price for parking spaces with electric chargers.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 19th, 2014 at 23:44

    Current edition of Destination:Freedom (National Corridors Initiative newsletter) has several items that may be of interest:

    London’s Newest Rail Tunnel Shows The World How It’s Done

    Amtrak’s Winter Difficulties: A Rider’s View

    APTA Reports: Transit Ridership Up In 3rd Quarter, Year-To-Date

    WABTEC Lands MARC PTC Contract

    European Railways’ Safety Improves Further

    Construction Starts On Semmering Base Tunnel

    Part of what makes this one interesting are the comments on the generational shift:

    Wisconsin Should Get On Board

    Finally, why do American locomotives get uglier and uglier?



    swing hanger Reply:

    I think the general appearance of a vehicle is a reflection of that particular nation’s attitude (both institutional and popular) towards that form of transport, engineering/safety regulations aside…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the speed is low, then there’s no need for streamlining. Here is how the medium-speed DMUs in Denmark and Israel look. These are the trains I grew up riding, puzzled as to where the locomotive is and what its method of traction is.

  12. Ben
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 00:14

    To try and comply with Judge Kenny’s ruling, the Authority is currently rewriting the business plan, renaming the ICS to IOS. Once the plan is finished, would the plan go back to Judge Kenny for review of legal compliance with Prop 1A, or what would the process be?

    morris brown Reply:


    You and others might well view this segment of the House sub-committee meeting last Thursday (1/15)



    Here Richard pretty much tells you what the Authority plans to do.

    The Authority, to comply with the writ that Judge Kenney issued must first de-certify its funding plan, which was found to be illegal under Prop 1A. (please note that you and others are confusing a business plan with the legally required approved funding plan. Prop 1A demands an approved “funding plan”, of which a business plan can be incorporated)

    The Authority must then create a legally acceptable funding plan and the Authority board my approve a new plan.

    The appropriation SB-1029 (2012), must then be re-done, since it was based on the illegal funding plan.

    Ben Reply:

    So the legality of the funding plan would be determined by the Authority board and the state legislature without going back to Judge Kenny? If these are the people reviewing it, it would seem like whatever plan they propose would be passed, whether legal or not. Am I wrong?

    joe Reply:

    I think you are right.

    Morris, I’m not sure.

    At the link provided, about 5:00 into the video, Richard tells Denham that the Judge’s ruling applied to the old funding plan (they have consistently held this position), which is NOT the funding plan they had vetted by the State and voted on by the legislature. They Authority’s position is this plan is legal and was NOT ruled on by the judge.

    joe Reply:

    You need to dial up 5:00 into the video because Richard says The Authority plans to update the funding plan (ruled on by the judge) to be exactly what was presented to the legislature.

    Later on Richard testifies that The Judge rule on a plan which equated IOS with useable segment.
    He tells Denham that in the updated funding plan the leglislature voted on, a useable segment was defined as the valley segment. This compliance was assured by the lawyers who vetted the plan for Prop1A. That is why Richard insists that legislature voted on a legal funding plan.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Joe and others.

    There was and has been up to now only one “funding plan”; it was approved by the Authority in Nov 2011. Using a term that Richard likes to employ, when Richard says “the updated funding plan the legislature voted on, a useable segment was defined as the valley segment.” , he is spewing pure bunk. Again there was and has been up to now, only one approved “funding plan”, it was passed in Nov 2011, and it says nothing about “bookend funding” or attempted to say a “usable segment” was anything other than the specified “IOS”, which goes all the way from Merced to the San Fernando Valley”. The “updated” funding plan Richard wants you to believe exists, simply does not exist.

    The existing funding plan says nothing about funding CalTrain electrification nor updating regional rail down south. The appropriation for these items included in SB-1029 are also clearly illegal, since Prop 1A demands the funding plan spell out appropriate funding.

    joe Reply:

    It is a crime to give false testimony to Congress. Email Jeff Denham. You just caught Richard and need to make an example of him.

    agb5 Reply:

    Sounds like the authority will argue that a Usable Segment is defined as “some components of a high speed rail system build on some part of the high speed corridor”, and that if the components are High Speed Ready, they are in compliance with 1A (and with voter intent, and international best practice, and common sense) .

    Lewellan Reply:

    Common sense would not encourage over-investment in the Madera-Bakersfield rail corridor; like buying a 2014 Cadillac engine, buying the body in pieces assembled later with no guarantee. Electrification of the Altamont corridor or completing the Bakersfield-to-LA segment
    would be more productive investments for those who at least try to uphold common sense.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Since when has “common sense” had anything to do with PB-CHSRA.

    These are the guys who fired a professional engineer for doing his job responsibly and replaced him with a hack from PG&E.

  13. joe
    Jan 20th, 2014 at 13:58

    Ryanair ‘defeated’ by high-speed train services

    Ryanair will cease flying between Italy’s two most important cities with effect from the end of March, reports Swiss aviation website ch-aviation.ch.

    One operator is state-owned Trenitalia, the other is “open access” firm Italo. Together, both provide a frequent and reasonably priced train service throughout the day, taking just over three hours and 15 minutes between the two cities.

  14. Vicki Lee
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 09:55

    As Chair of Sierra Club California, I need to set the record straight. Kathryn Phillips has not made statements that are out of line with Sierra Club positions, as you claim. The Club supports High Speed Rail AND we support full funding for cap-and-trade funded programs that will reduce near-term emissions. Kathryn works for an elected executive committee of 11 members and a statewide conservation committee of 58 delegates. She stays in contact daily with me and other Club leaders, and she knows what to do and say to protect the interests of the Sierra Club. Just because you don’t like what she says doesn’t mean she’s not authorized to say it.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Vicki, thanks for the comment. I have some questions about what you wrote.

    Did the executive committee vote to oppose cap-and-trade funding for HSR?

    Did the executive committee vote to oppose long-term CO2 reductions?

    Does Sierra Club California support the long-term CO2 reduction goals laid out in AB 32 and the executive orders?

    Does Sierra Club California oppose CARB’s implementation plan for the cap-and-trade funds?

    Is Sierra Club California aware that CARB has stated the 2020 CO2 reduction goals will be met under current plans?

    Does Sierra Club California believe we should declare victory and go home in 2020 once those CO2 goals are achieved?

    Is Sierra Club California aware that the HSR project, which you claim to support, needs to identify ongoing funding sources by this spring to stay alive?

    Does Sierra Club California believe the state should explore local sources to fund mass transit projects including HSR? If not cap-and-trade, where do you propose to come up with $250 million for HSR by April?

    Why is Sierra Club California siding with Tea Party Republicans and others who oppose CO2 reductions and who believe climate change is not caused by human activity?

    Answers to these questions would be welcome.

    joe Reply:

    “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; … who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises […] to wait for a “more convenient season.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re arguing tactics rather than strategy. In a war, there are limited resources, and sometimes the general staff is going to decide that one particular front or battle costs too much resources and direct the troops and material to another front. Everything you’ve said about this is on the level of “we really need to conquer this objective” and not on the level of “here’s why this objective is a better use of our divisions than the other alternatives,” and when people point out limited resources, you get offended and complain about austerity. Well, if we were talking about the federal budget then you’d be right, but we’re not, we’re talking about a specific limited pool of money.

  15. Vicki Lee
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 11:52

    All the questions you pose for me re: ExCom voting are irrelevant. Kathryn Phillips is authorized to speak for Sierra Club California, and she’s doing an excellent job precisely because she understands what is needed to reduce ghg emissions, given the scientific information available today. Tea Party references are absurd. HSR has to stand on its own, not on the back of Sierra Club.

    joe Reply:

    The Club supports High Speed Rail AND we support full funding for cap-and-trade funded programs that will reduce near-term emissions.

    HSR has to stand on its own, not on the back of Sierra Club.

    Support without action. We all know what that means.

    I’m reminded of these words, from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

    Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

    joe Reply:


    Action = Equality

    The Sierra Club supports HSR but HSR has to stand on its own, not on the back of the Sierra Club.

    There’s not an issue today that concerned people don’t understand verbal support without taking action is de facto opposition. Actively opposing funding is actively working against the project.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Vicki’s comments are clear. Their “support” for HSR is theoretical. Sierra Club California is going to ally with the extreme right and climate deniers to destroy HSR. It’s a really dark day for the Sierra Club.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    An evil despicable developer is someone who wants to build a cabin in the woods. A concerned stalwart conservationist…. already has a cabin in the woods. Many many environmentalists are BANANAs, it’s not that surprising that some of them want it done right and are deeply concerned it isn’t being done right. What they neglect to say is that it never will be done right, they want to put it off forever and ever.

    joe Reply:

    It varies by region. I was strongly supporting the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy while residing in North ID and Western MT.

    In CA I find them less connected to natural resources, more difficult to understand their leadership and members. They are, generally part of a higher income demographic than I saw in ID or MT.

    In a colleague made the case (on national TV no less) that the watershed for NYC is best kept undeveloped for preserving the valuable ecosystem services it provides the city – clean water. Development would necessitate water purification and cost billions.

    There are ways to work with science and value systems to preserve land. I see nothing in the Sierra Club position rooted in science. Nothing but pedantic argument that 2020 is a magical date.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Sierra Club Wisconsin led the fight to stop Scott Walker from killing high speed rail. They understood that in an era where the Tea Party is working very hard to stop all government-funded efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the Sierra Club is a crucial voice in standing up for HSR. It’s a shame you don’t see it that way, and are happy to let the right destroy yet another effort to produce long-term CO2 reductions. It’s as if you guys don’t care at all about those long-term reductions or HSR, especially given your evasive response.

    joe Reply:

    The important, long term cultural changes needed to pull California Sierra Club executives out of their Prius and on to public transit is going to be harder than I thought.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Did you not actually read what she said or something?

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Please point us to the Sierra Club white paper, or other policy statement, about high speed rail, cap and trade, and priorities for spending cap and trade revenue. We seem to be arguing over a quote from a newspaper article.

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