Wednesday, August 2, 2017

More Evidence that CEQA Abuse is out of control in California

Mass Transit projects meant to improve the environment around airports and across the state continue to be obstructed by broken environmental law.



Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com



Fair and fact-driven individuals now have stronger case of why state environmental law needs reform. The epidemic of trivial lawsuits blocking in-fill residential development and transit projects have long been obstructing innovative progress to make the planet cleaner and are thus hurting the environment. Why does the state legislature allow this to continue?

This blog has documented several examples of such abuse. This includes the suit against the Perris Valley Line extension and the development of a badly-needed community college campus in Wildomar. Now we have even more to add:

California's high speed rail project has been one perfect example. Opponents have long been using broken CEQA law to block the progress of developing a 21st century statewide mass transit system connecting the Golden State's urban cores. The latest set back deals with a policy ruling from the State Supreme Court relative to California and federal law that will open the door to more CEQA lawsuits. To be clear, if any segment of the proposed routing will in fact cause grave damage to ecosystems or habitats, I have no problem with that section being challenged. But several of these suits are driven by the greed of power, not to protect Mother Earth. 

In LA County, Metro's expansion of its rail transit network, built along existing developed areas and corridors are being obstructed by trivial cases, again enabled by broken CEQA law.

Add to that, CEQA madness at LAX which has had its $5 billion transit plan taken to court by a private parking lot company not to look out after pollution and traffic congestion in the area, but because connecting a train line to LAX would hurt the pay-to-park industry. That's because the plan prohibits shuttles from entering into to the terminal area and instead use the ground transit hub. Loopholes in the law have enabled these lot companies to build up a legal argument against improving mass transportation infrastructure in the name of the environment. To be fair, the industry has a valid argument, but to force their interest above the public's through CEQA is abusive.

I can go on for days talking about other trivial cases, but enough. This is more proof that CEQA needs reform. We need strong environmental law that will protect the planet from polluters, no question. We need to maintain an impartial means to challenge projects in court that don't comply to law, no question. But we also need policies where environmentally friendly projects are not subject to environmental suits just because somebody opposes or competes with their industry.

Two laws that would potentially stop this are: 1. CEQA reform as mentioned above. 2. State law where if somebody files a lawsuit that is found to be frivolous, the judge can order the suing party to pay for 100% of the court costs plus the defendent's attorney bill.

The playing field needs to be competitive, level and fair. The company of where I work constantly innovates because I know that game-changing technology improvements are being introduced everyday and I know that products that we use now will one day become obsolete. The market is competitive and such competition allows for innovation and quality improvements. And we should never abuse the law to stop such creativity, period. There are ways for the parking lot industry to compete and continue to profit and grow through innovation by making the lots more attractive, safer, and affordable with seamless connections to/from the ground transit center.

It's long past time for Californians to stop accepting this abuse of the law which is damaging the environment--California can't build the bullet train, LA Metro can't expand its rail lines, LAX can't install a peoplemover line, infill developers can't expand housing on developed land--all in the name of the environment? This is all a bunch of nonsense, and it has to stop.