Another EIR, Another Lawsuit
The case for reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rolls on, as Kern County votes to sue over the Fresno to Bakersfield EIR even though they were told winning was a longshot at best:
County Counsel Theresa Goldner said Wednesday the suit will target the rail authority’s review of the 114-mile alignment proposed between Fresno and Bakersfield. She said the suit will be filed no later than Friday to meet a Monday deadline.
On May 20, Goldner told the board that such a lawsuit was a bad idea. She said her office looked into the possibility of a lawsuit but at that point had not identified any information that would “indicate that such a suit would prevail in court.”
But since then, she said, her office has taken a closer look in consultation with high-speed rail opponents including Kings County and others.
Goldner said the lawsuit will allege:
• The environmental review relied on an inadequate project description that left out things like electrical infrastructure changes, the location of staging areas and parking facilities;
• Inconsistencies between the draft review and the final version, such as a 14 million cubic yard, 127 percent difference in the amount of fill material needed to complete the Fresno to Bakersfield section;
• “Improper piecemealing” of the project’s impacts — specifically, a failure to consider the combined effects of the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section and the Fresno-to-Merced portion;
• The review did not analyze the route’s cumulative impacts on air quality; and
• The draft review neglected to look at how the project would limit access to Central Park at Mill Creek and the Kern River Parkway.
Ah, so when Kern County looked at this on their own they found no reason to sue, but then a bunch of anti-HSR folks came up with a laundry list of stuff they’ve tried before to use failed to win in court, so Kern County is now willing to spend a bunch of money on another lawsuit. Pretty ridiculous stuff.
My guess is this lawsuit goes nowhere. They couldn’t even articulate an underlying reason for the suit, didn’t identify any sweeping route changes they want. Maybe Kern County supervisors don’t want HSR and the jobs it would bring anymore.
But hopefully it gets resolved quickly, and that it acts as another spur to convince Sacramento to fix CEQA so opponents of important projects can’t go on fishing expeditions like this.