Thursday, April 11, 2013

Addressing the Perris Valley Lawsuit ruling

Enhances Transit NetworkThe 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.

2 comments:

  1. The Transit Coalition is obviously against the common citizen here when it want to take away the limited protection of CEQA and fast track poorly designed projects.

    CEQA is an important instrument. The state legislators taking campaign donations (bribes) to overturn portions of CEQA is "poor public policy."

    Sometimes a judge sitting on a bench is all the protection that the common man has against abusive bureaucrats.

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    1. RCTC wants to operate passenger trains along an existing rail right-of-way which is publicly owned, connecting Perris to Los Angeles. Explain how that's bad for traffic and the environment. See where amendments are needed?

      We don't support fast tracking environmentally-prohibitive projects, that's a CEQA protection that must be maintained and judge should retain power to veto such projects, but overturning a project just because a NIMBY group opposes it must be fixed.

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