By Gennady Sheyner : PaloAltoWeekly – excerpt
City irked by train agency’s decision to seek exemption from state environmental law: Weeks after learning about Caltrain’s plan to seek an exemption from California’s environmental law for its proposed electrification project in the event of a lawsuit, Palo Alto officials are preparing to consider their legal options.
The City Council has set a special closed-session meeting for this evening to consider potential litigation against the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. The session, which was placed on the agenda last week, comes two weeks after the council heard a presentation about Caltrain’s staff about the recently completed Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the long-planned project, which seeks to replace diesel trains with electric ones starting in 2019. In addition to enabling an increase in trains, the electrification project also intends to set the stage for the ultimate construction of high-speed rail…The document also asserted for the first time Caltrain’s intention to claim exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act, the very law that makes the EIR mandatory, should the project face a lawsuit. While Caltrain officials said they plan to go along with the mitigations laid out in the report regardless of the law’s applicability, they also said they reserve the right to declare themselves exempt from the law if the document faces a legal challenge… (more)