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Lawsuit Contests High-Speed Rail Air Quality Plans

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A French high speed train TGV. (ALAIN JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

A French high speed train TGV. (ALAIN JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A San Rafael-based group that opposes California’s high-speed rail project filed a lawsuit Monday contesting the state’s plan to spend cap-and-trade pollution money on the $68 billion project, arguing that building the bullet train would create more pollution than it would reduce for at least a decade.

The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against the California Air Resources Board, the state agency responsible for ensuring California meets the emissions reduction targets in its landmark global warming law, AB32.

The suit alleges the board downplayed the harmful effects on the environment and exaggerated the potential environmental benefits of high-speed rail in its scoping plan, allowing the state to claim the bullet train will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The suit came just a week after the state Legislature approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to give high-speed rail $250 million from the state’s cap-and-trade pollution fees in the upcoming fiscal year and a quarter of future cap-and-trade revenues. Some environmental groups initially opposed the plan.

The lawsuit says the scoping plan relied almost entirely on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s “inadequate” environmental analysis “without doing its own independent analysis and evaluation of those impacts and their significance” as required under California’s strict environmental laws.

It says the board also failed to consider the pollution associated with “manufacturing the many thousands of tons of cement that would be needed for the project’s construction.”

A spokesman for the Air Resources Board, Stanley Young, said in an email that high-speed rail has been integral to the state’s AB32 plan since it was developed in 2008.

“Not only will it be constructed with net-zero emissions, but it will dramatically reduce car miles traveled in the state,” Young said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley has called the agency’s environmental review “perhaps the most comprehensive analysis document ever prepared in California.”

The transportation group’s president, David Schonbrunn, said he submitted written and oral comments to the air board about the thousands of tons of cement that were not accounted for in the plan, but the lawsuit says ARB failed to respond as required by law.

The suit also claims the agency is required to ensure its environmental assessment considered a reasonable range of feasible alternatives to reduce the project’s carbon emissions, such as using fewer raised concrete viaducts, but it did not do so.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the ARB to rescind its inclusion of high-speed rail in the scoping plan and to invalidate funding for it from the greenhouse gas emissions reduction fund.

AB32 aims to cut California’s greenhouse gas production to 1990 levels by 2020.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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