HSRA Approves Pacheco Yet Again

On April 19, in accordance with writs issued by the Sacramento Superior Court in response to litigation by TRANSDEF and its allies, the CA High-Speed Rail Authority rescinded its previous certification of the 2010 Revised Final Program EIR for the Bay Area to Central Valley portion of its HST project, and rescinded its approval of the Pacheco route.

After that action, the Board certified a Partially Revised Final Program EIR and adopted the Pacheco route. While the result was the same as its 2010 action, this time was different. Authority Board members went to great lengths to appear to seriously consider the Altamont route. This was a striking change from the arrogance of past Boards. Nonetheless, the outcome was the same: nothing has changed.

The Board heard strong testimony from environmentalists as to the merits of the Altamont route. TRANSDEF provided this testimony, which criticized the EIR and called out the EIR preparers’ underhanded tricks:

Recognizing the biological impacts of both the Pacheco and Altamont alternatives, we submitted a new alternative comprised of the Altamont Corridor Rail Project optimized for speed, coupled with the blended approach from SJ to SF. This alternative would avoid all the major impacts identified in previous EIRs. The FEIR refused to study this alternative, contrary to the mandate of CEQA. I have sent you a letter this morning, and handed in a hard copy here.

You as project sponsor are not legally entitled to say "the full-build is our project-- the blended system is a mere implementation strategy." When an environmentally superior alternative is proposed, you have to study it and adopt it. If you insist on certifying this document, you will be back in court and lose.

There is a very clear subtext to the response to comments: It says to us "we've already made up our minds where the tracks go. Please don't keep bothering us with rational arguments, because we will never ever agree with you. Even when you have strong arguments, we will make stuff up if we have to, just to preserve our past decisions." PB claimed we said things that we hadn't said, just so that they could knock them down. It's despicable and unprofessional. And worst of all for you, wrong on CEQA.

This is a new Board. You were not responsible for the decisions of the past. Have you learned anything from this organization's two previous expensive and time-consuming losses? Don't follow your consultants into yet another morass. You are tasked by the Governor with setting a new tone for this agency. Please do so by demonstrating leadership and walking back from the brink. Please send this EIR back for revisions consistent with CEQA.