SACRAMENTO (AP) — In the latest challenge to California’s $68 billion high-speed-rail project, Kings County and a group of its residents filed another lawsuit against the bullet train Thursday, alleging continued violations of California’s Environmental Quality Act and several other state laws.
In the lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, the county, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability and the Kings County Farm Bureau allege that the California High-Speed Rail Authority “abused its discretion and violated the law” in approving a massive environmental review of the 114-mile segment from Fresno to Bakersfield.
Opponents say the review approved in May is “unquestionably inadequate” and fails to address the serious effects of the project on thousands of acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, communities, businesses and industrial facilities, as well as the potential harm to existing roads, oil and water wells and water delivery and drainage facilities.
The rail authority said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit. But spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said in an email that the lawsuit “is not about protecting the environment but about Kings County trying every means possible to stop high-speed rail.”
She said the agency’s environmental review, which took several years to complete, was “one of the most comprehensive environmental analyses ever prepared in California.” She said no federal or state agency that is responsible for environmental compliance or any environmental groups filed objections during the state’s required public comment period.
Kings County has been among the most vocal critics of the bullet train, filing several lawsuits against it. In the most high-profile case, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge halted the sale of $8.6 billion in state rail bonds and ordered the state to write a new funding plan, delaying work on the first segment in the Central Valley.
Residents argue that the current bullet train plan no longer meets the promises made to voters when they approved it in 2008.
The state attorney general’s office argued in a state appellate court last month that the project should be exempt from the state’s strict environmental review process now that it is subject to federal oversight.