SACRAMENTO (AP) — California regulators did not abuse their discretion when they decided to pay for the state’s high-speed rail project with money from a greenhouse gas emissions program, a Sacramento County judge said in a ruling made final on Monday.
The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, which opposes the bullet train, argued that constructing the $64 billion project would create more pollution than it would eliminate for at least a decade.
The state has argued high-speed rail will help it meet its greenhouse gas-reduction targets.
But the lawsuit by the group based in San Rafael contended that the California Air Resources Board underplayed the bullet train’s harmful environmental effects and exaggerated its environmental benefits. The board relied on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s environmental analysis and failed to account for the tons of cement to be used in construction, the lawsuit argued.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang ruled that the decision by the California Air Resources Board was not arbitrary and capricious.
Chang said she “is sympathetic to TRANSDEF’s concerns,” but she wrote in her mid-May decision that the court “may not set aside ARB’s decisions simply because it disagrees with ARB.”
Spokesmen for the board and the California High-Speed Rail Authority did not comment. The board was sued because it is the agency responsible for making sure that California meets the emissions-reduction targets in its landmark global warming law.
The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund’s president, David Schonbrunn, said the group hadn’t decided whether to appeal.
The state has argued that the bullet train will reduce emissions by taking vehicles off state roads.
Schonbrunn countered that the project’s early emissions could ultimately cause more harm than any benefit it might one day bring, if the earlier pollution pushes the earth’s climate past its “tipping point.”
“There will come a time when it doesn’t matter if emissions are reduced, because it will then be too late to do anything about it,” Schonbrunn said.
The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund originally filed the lawsuit in Fresno County, but it was transferred to Sacramento County.
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