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.

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