After encountering criticism from environmental groups, Gov. Jerry Brown signaled Wednesday that he plans to withdraw his controversial proposal to protect the California bullet train project from injunctions sought by environmental lawsuits.
Brown’s staff told key environmental groups that he would no longer include modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act in a package of legislation this month asking for $6 billion to start construction of the high-speed rail project.
The move was confirmed by staff in the state Senate. A spokesman for the governor did not have an immediate response.
The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council raised objections to Brown’s proposal, saying it was part of a pattern to water down one of the most important pieces of environmental law in history. Critics of the bullet train, meanwhile, said it appeared that Brown wanted to protect his pet project, while leaving other businesses in the state to bear the full brunt of the law.
It appeared that the proposal was jeopardizing support for the rail protect from the environmental movement, a stalwart supporter of high-speed rail, along with labor unions and big engineering firms.
As proof that history certainly rhymes, if not engaging in outright repetition, waiving environmental protection laws for HSR is what sunk the initial attempt back in the 1980's. While Brown doesn't appear to have fully learned from that, it does look like he has learned not to press it in the face of opposition. That's not to say I was opposed to the waivering; the environmental protection laws in California are frequently over the top and contrary to the public good.