In Town of Atherton v. CA High Speed Rail Authority, No. C070877 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d Dist., July 24, 2014), the Third Appellate District upheld the High-Speed Rail Authority’s (HSRA) Program Environmental Impact Report/ Program Environmental Impact Statement (PEIR/PEIS) for the Bay Area to San Joaquin Valley segment of California’s High Speed Rail system (the Project). The appellate court ruled that the HSRA properly limited the environmental analysis to a program level and properly deferred site-specific analysis, and that the PEIR/PEIS studied an adequate range of alternatives.
In 2008, the HSRA certified the PEIR/PEIS for the Bay Area to San Joaquin Valley segment and identified the Pacheco Pass Corridor as the preferred alignment. Shortly after certification of the PEIR/PEIS, several interested parties (collectively, the Petitioners) filed suit, and the trial court found fault with the PEIR/PEIS’s project description, alternatives, and mitigation measures (Town of Atherton I). After revising the PEIR/PEIS, the HSRA asked the trial court to approve the revisions. A second group of litigants that included the Petitioners then filed suit to challenge the revised analysis. That suit is the root of the instant appeal (Town of Atherton II).
In Town of Atherton II, Petitioners alleged that the revised PEIR/PEIS improperly deferred analysis of the impacts of a portion of the train alignment and that the alternatives analysis did not consider new information provided by its own expert consulting company that identified a different feasible alignment. The trial court held that impacts of the alignment were properly deferred and the HSRA was not required to consider the Petitioner’s alternative.
On appeal, the appellate court first considered the HSRA’s contention that the appeal must be dismissed because federal law preempts state environmental law. Moving on to the merits, the court then analyzed the appellants’ arguments regarding whether the PEIR/PEIS properly analyzed the impacts of the Project and the alternatives. Continue Reading California High Speed Rail Dodges Legal Bullet