The California State Legislature has some work to do to reform state environmental law. An April 1, 2013 court ruling on RCTC's long-proposed Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension shows that Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled in favor of the opposing party on 5 of the 15 environmental concerns brought up in court: Negations to the soil, track lubricant usage, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise pollution, and construction related noise.
The organization responsible for this lawsuit is a group called Friends of Riverside Hills. The organization argues:
The Perris Valley line will be comfortable. But cost and convenience are
simply not there. That makes it poor public policy. The environmental
impacts are being challenged in the Friend’s lawsuit.
It is quite clear that Friends of Riverside Hills opposes the Perris Valley Line, but using the courts to overturn a project they claim is "poor public policy" in the name of the environment encroaches the separation of powers. This has allowed a judge to decide the fate of the rail line from the bench. The ruling leaves
the Perris Valley Line case in a complicated position under the current
law, but the legislature has the power to avert further delays caused by
broad court rulings through its power to change the law.
As reported, the state legislature has been working on and should follow
through on its promise to close up California Environmental Quality Act
loopholes so judges cannot veto large projects from the bench which
actually benefit the
environment and reduce traffic congestion like the Perris Valley Line.
Such rulings delay important projects which get paid for by the
taxpayer. It is a common fact that a rail transit alternative for the
I-215 corridor would reduce
congestion and pollution by providing a multi-modal transportation
option to single-occupancy automobile travel, thus fulfilling the goals
and intents of state environmental law which is to protect the
environment. In addition, RCTC owns the already-developed rail right-of-way.
To be fair, issues such
as construction-related pollution should be dealt with by fining
construction firms that excessively pollute. Same holds true for
pedestrians who illegally trespass into an active rail right-of-way. However, these issues combined with CEQA loopholes should not be excuses for a judge to veto or delay the rail project from the bench.