Court Rules Again Against HSRA

Court Rules Again Against

11/10/11 Filed in:

On Thursday, November
10, Judge Michael Kenny of the Sacramento Superior
Court released a pair of decisions 38 and 40 pages
long, invalidating the Environmental Impact Report
for the Central Valley to Bay Area section of the
California High-Speed Rail project–for the second
time. The Judge found that the California High-Speed
Rail Authority had failed to adequately address a
series of challenges raised by the Petitioners,
comprised of the Town of Atherton, the City of Menlo
Park, the City of Palo Alto, the California Rail
Foundation, the Transportation Solutions Defense and
Education Fund, the Planning and Conservation League,
Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, Patricia
Giorni and the Mid-Peninsula Residents for Civic

The court found that the project’s Revised
Environmental Impact Report had failed to discuss
significant impacts, failed to consider information
from the Authority’s parallel project-level studies,
and failed to recirculate the document for public

For the second time, the Court ordered the Authority
to rescind its approvals selecting the Pacheco Pass
alignment and its certification of the associated
Revised Final Environmental Impact Report.

Gary Patton, co-counsel, stated that “The court’s
decision tells the California High-Speed Rail
Authority that it can’t keep ignoring the public’s
right to participate. The court’s decision in the
Atherton II case says that the Authority failed in
its duty to recirculate the CEQA document to get
public comments, and this was a violation of the

Richard Tolmach, President of the California Rail
Foundation, declared that “Twice in a row, the
Authority ignored the requirements of environmental
law. The Judge found they still have not done a
proper study.”

Stuart Flashman, lead counsel, stated that “In
rejecting the EIR, the Court has upheld the principle
that significant project impacts cannot be swept
under the rug for later consideration, after the key
decisions have already been made.”

Because the EIR challenge was divided procedurally
into two parts, there are two decisions:

Atherton I and Atherton II.

The decision elements which favored the Petitioners’


  • The Revised Final
    Program EIR fails to adequately address the traffic
    impacts associated with narrowing the Monterey
    Highway. p. 11
  • The Revised Final
    Program EIR fails to adequately address the impacts
    associated with moving the Monterey Highway
    eastward. p. 17
  • Respondent failed
    to analyze the potential noise and vibration
    impacts of placing freight trains closer to
    residences and businesses. p. 22
  • Respondent
    improperly deferred analysis of impacts associated
    with reduced access to surface streets its
    second-tier, project-level analysis. p.

Atherton II

  • New information
    regarding significant impacts in the Revised
    Program EIR required recirculation. p.
  • New information
    regarding the increased significance of previously
    disclosed significant impacts in the Revised
    Program EIR required recirculation.

    p. 31
  • Respondent’s
    analysis of traffic impacts related to the
    narrowing of Monterey Highway is deficient. p.

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