Considering their importance, the public hasn't heard much about Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority and Kings County v. Surface Transportation Board. The two cases, respectively before the California Supreme Court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, could end California environmental review of public rail projects in California – most notably the High Speed Rail project and might indirectly affect private rail operations including oil trains.
The cases shaped up this winter into tests of whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) can block environmental reviews of rail projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The STB and two state rail agencies contend that CEQA review crosses onto the STB's exclusive regulatory turf under the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. §10101 et seq.
Less than a day before trial, the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Madera/Fresno farming organizations announced they had reached a settlement -- dissolving the last legal challenge to the first segment of California's HSR. According to Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera Farm Bureau, the rail authority offered significant concessions including increased mitigation for agricultural impacts and compensation for landowners who are affected by the project.
Cambridge, Mass. -- Imagine you're a former Treasury secretary, or, a former Interior secretary, or a former governor with national influence and you've been tasked to discuss land use on a springtime Friday in 2011. What in the world do you talk about? You can't talk about development per se, because there isn't much of any. And you can't talk about particular cities because you're a former federal official who takes a broad view of the state of affairs. And you probably want to say something positive.