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.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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