I frankly do not understand what that phrase literally means (what’s a petard?), but I love it when it figuratively happens. And that seems to have occurred with California’s high speed rail.
We’ve been told in California that high-speed rail will be the solution to the evils of fossil fuels. A great environmental advancement. But now it looks like the project won’t be able to progress because… Governor Jerry Brown won’t exempt the project from following the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
President Obama’s stimulus allocated $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, including, eventually, up to $3.5 billion for California’s project. However, according to the stimulus law, California must begin construction on the project before December 31, 2012 or they will not be eligible for any more high speed rail stimulus dollars. Obama’s Transportation Department reaffirmed this time limit last year when they admitted they had “no administrative authority to change this deadline.”
Fast forward to this June when the city of Chowchilla filed suit to stop construction of the project alleging that the High Speed Rail Authority failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
Studies show that the average time to complete the NEPA process is 6.1 years. And NEPA is designed to be a preventative statute. Federal courts routinely issue injunctions to stop projects before they ever begin. That is why oil companies preemptively sued environmental groups earlier this year over leases in Alaska. They wanted to get the litigation out of the way so they could begin oil exploration as fast as possible.
While I am very happy that this might lead to a de facto halt to our high-speed boondoggle, it still ticks me off that the average time to complete the NEPA process is over six years. Six years! It’s a wonder that our economy hasn’t ground to a complete halt.
And lefties are demanding environmental impact reports (EIRs) for more and more activities. A group wanted San Francisco to provide an EIR before hosting The America’s Cup. All that tourist activity and boats sailing the bay just can’t be allowed to go unimpeded. Pretty soon we will all be required to provide a personal EIR before we go to the toilet.
But for now I will just enjoy a moment when apparatchiks collide.