Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Fall 2014, Vol. 23, No. 2

California High Speed Rail: An Update for 2013-2014

By Kathryn Phelan* and John Fox**


California High-Speed Rail ("HSR") is planned to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by train in under three hours with speeds over 200 miles per hour by 2029.1 With future extensions to Sacramento and San Diego, the total HSR system will be over 800 miles.2 The California High-Speed Rail Authority ("HSRA"), which was created by the Legislature in 1996, oversees the planning, designing, building and operation of the HSRA.3 Environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act,4 and the National Environmental Policy Act5 of the proposed alignment of the HSR has been under review for over a decade.6Since the first joint Environmental Impact Report ("EIR")/Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") was certified by the HSRA in 2005 to approve the Preferred Alignment, lawsuits and controversy have followed.7

In the courtrooms, legislative houses, and meeting rooms, the last year and a half has been as busy for California’s HSR project as any in prior years. The HSRA was named in more new lawsuits in 2014 than it was able to get dismissed or settled in 2013. More important than bare numbers, critical issues remain to be decided for HSR in the courts, including whether HSR will be able to use cap-and-trade revenue as a source of funds. This article provides an update on recent case law, administrative actions, and legislative actions.

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