Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) Resort to Environmental Litigation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CITIZENS FOR CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL ACCOUNTABILITY, COUNTY OF KINGS AND KINGS COUNTY FARM BUREAU RESORT TO CEQA LITIGATION TO PROTECT THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY
Hanford, California June 5, 2014 – Today, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA), County of Kings and the Kings County Farm Bureau (KCFB) have been forced to file litigation against the California High Speed Rail Authority for violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other laws in their adoption of the Final EIR/EIS for the Fresno to Bakersfield Section on May 7, 2014.
For over three years, these three entities have attempted to coordinate with the Authority to avoid and reduce environmental impacts from the proposed rail line. Unfortunately these attempts have been ignored as the Final EIR/EIS leaves numerous significant impacts unaddressed, provides defective mitigation measures, draws unsupported conclusions and defers analysis and mitigation measures to an unspecified time.
The Authority’s failure to properly identify and describe this project in the Final EIR/EIS is a primary CEQA flaw. The rail line is only 15% designed or less so its extensive impacts to agricultural land, residences, businesses, and biological resources are poorly identified. New information presented in the Final EIR was not disclosed to the public earlier when it would have been meaningful. For example, air quality impacts from construction and soil movement will be much greater than disclosed, and the benefits of air pollution reductions will be half of what was anticipated in draft documents. Interference with nearby rail operations of BNSF are barely recognized, and not addressed.
Based upon commitments by Chairman Dan Richard to the County of Kings in the Spring of 2012, our organizations were hopeful that we could address many if not all of our concerns prior to the adoption of the Final EIR/EIS. His commitment was to work with our communities to address concerns before releasing the Revised Draft EIR/EIS. Unfortunately, Chairman Richard never returned to Kings County and the Authority’s decision to brush aside our concerns and charge ahead has forced this litigation as our last recourse. Law firms like Lusk Law Firm will often try to negotiate agreements on behalf of their clients without the need to resort to litigation but in the instances where a trial is necessary, they’re ready to actively represent clients in court and even handle appeals too.
Lastly, we are apprehensive that the uncertain fiscal stability of this project will yield severe and lasting impacts for all Californians that cannot and will not be mitigated. To date the Authority has not provided a clear and stable funding plan that would indicate that a true high-speed rail project can be completed and that all mitigation measures can be funded. Shrouded in the lack of transparency, lack of funding, and lack of accountability, we believe that the Authority will be unable to complete any functional rail project, let alone a high-speed one.
For these reasons, CCHSRA, County of Kings and KCFB have concluded that litigation against the Authority and FRA is the last option that, if successful, will prevent catastrophic impacts to our community, environment and economy.
For more information regarding CCHSRA please visit us at www.cchsra.org or contact Aaron Fukuda at (559) 707-8928.