California Bullet Train About to Get Hit With Blizzard of Lawsuits

The LA-San Francisco bullet train got hit with another setback last week:

California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court. In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

This is a win-win-for me. I happen to think the bullet train is a bad idea, so anything that slows it down and leads to its possible demise is fine with me.

Alternatively, maybe this will light a fire under Jerry Brown to do something about California’s regulatory environment. It’s not that I think our environmental rules are necessarily too harsh, only that they’re incomprehensible and ungodly slow. One way or another, environmental regs at various levels of government—city, county, state, water district, coastal commission, etc.—need to be streamlined and made less ambiguous. It should be possible to enforce strict standards, but at the same time (a) make it clearer precisely what those standards are, (b) restrict the number of lawsuits over new projects, and (c) give courts the tools to rule more quickly on the lawsuits that remain. It shouldn’t take ten years just to get approval to build a high-rise in central Los Angeles. Either approve it or deny it, but don’t take forever to do it.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.