Collision Course: Environmental challenges brought under CEQA threaten California's high-speed trains.
Environmental Partner Jennifer Hernandez represented the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) in a case focused on a high-speed rail project. She discusses how the case law is replete with examples of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) abuse. She cites the petition for a writ of mandate filed by opponents of a transportation plan that regional governments in San Diego had proposed.
The article discusses Ms. Hernandez's in-house study of all published opinions for the past 15 years in which CEQA plaintiffs appealed adverse environmental impact report (EIR) rulings. Despite claims that the statute is used to fight industrial pollution, her report concluded that less than 11 percent of the appellate cases involved industrial development. Most cases concerned infrastructure and mixed-use projects, followed by residential and commercial development.
"Twenty or thirty years ago, if you got your EIR you knew you'd survive in court - assuming you told the truth," Ms. Hernandez says. "The point was to take a hard look, provide disclosure, determine mitigation; then you were done. Now, it has all been upended. Things have expanded to the point that 'environmental view-sheds' - what you see from your kitchen window, for example - can be grounds for a CEQA suit against environmentally sound in-fill development. People will sue simply because they don't like the way a project looks. That wasn't the original intention of the act."