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High speed rail spurs run away government

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POSTED May 22, 2014 12:53 a.m.

There are two sets of rules when it comes to environmental concerns in California.

One set for the politicians and bureaucrats and one set for everyone else.

The concept of politicians and bureaucrats as a privileged class is being pursued vigorously by Attorney General Kamala Harris in the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

The state is arguing that it doesn’t have to comply with the California Environmental  Quality Act when it comes to ramming high speed rail down the throats of people. That means the environment — fish, air quality,  burrowing owls, Indian archeological sites, and endangered species as well as people — be dammed as high speed rail is above the law.

California politicians and bureaucrats don’t want the draconian CEQA process and regulations they have imposed on everyone else including local government, business, and individual property owners to slow them down.

They are arguing in state court since the federal Surface Transportation Board determined it has authority over the high speed rail project subjecting it to additional federal requirements it therefore should be exempt from the state’s own strict environmental review process.

Essentially Harris’ office is arguing if a project is subject to federal oversight there is no need for state laws to apply.

The power elite in California politics better be careful what they ask for.

Should they prevail, there will be a precedent set that whenever the federal government deems it has oversight that it will trump any state laws.

California and the federal government share dual oversight on a number of touchy environmental concerns in the Golden State including offshore oil drilling, water use on navigable rivers, flood control, oil drilling, land use in large swaths of the mountains and desert plus air quality standards.

Imagine the howls of protest from those high speed rail backers who honesty believe spending $70 billion  to make travel more convenient for rich Californians between Los Angeles and San Francisco is all about air quality if federal emission standards superseded tougher state standards.

Should the state prevail, it could essentially weaken the state’s own environmental enforcement arm when it comes to a number of issues.

It would mean proponents of fracking could go to court and use a precedent attained to speed up high speed rail construction by ignoring state rules once it is established the federal government has oversight to do away with the need to meet state environmental rules to drill for oil.

The drive to get high speed rail built at all costs is a textbook example of how Sacramento operates. They never connect dots to solve problems. Instead they make new dots.

It explains why there are no less than 10 state agencies governing water issues. Each has its own set of career bureaucrats building fiefdoms with politically appointed overseers that have their own agendas.

It is why River Islands at Lathrop — willing to pay the price to make their planned community as flood proof as possible — had to make an end run after they had only secured several of the permits needed to strengthen levees after years of seeking them. They had come to the realization that by the time they got all needed permits, the first ones they obtained from the state would expire and they’d have to apply for them all over again.

So Cambray Group scoured federal and state regulations and employed out-of-the-box thinking to build parallel dry levees. They filled the gap between the dry levee and river levee with dirt. As such they didn’t disturb the original levels and therefore weren’t subject to state review.

In the end, the 300-foot wide super levees actually exceeded all state and federal requirements for flood protection. Cambray Group didn’t try to cut corners to speed up the project or save money. The levee work cost them a cool $70 million and was completed seven years before the foundation for the first home was poured.

Since federal oversight is involved with the Delta, had the precedent California is asking for in the appellate court for high speed rail been in place they could have used that in a legal argument to avoid state reviews for levee work.

Politicians and bureaucrats lusting after high speed rail are willing to do anything and sacrifice everything to obtain their objective.

Forget the fact the ballot measure authorizing the high speed rail bonds clearly inferred the CEQA process would be used. Forget the fact that the California Legislature twice considered a request by Gov. Jerry Brown to exempt high speed rail from CEQA and declined to do so.

What is coming through the San Joaquin Valley isn’t high speed rail. It’s run away government

It is no longer an argument about whether high speed rail should be built. It is now a battle to save California from its own state government that’s running roughshod over the very people it was set up to govern.

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