Faceoff with Federal Government Possibly Looming Following California Supreme Court CEQA Ruling; Cal High Speed Rail Project Also Vulnerable

By Whitney Hodgesnatlawreview – excerpt

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 : In July 2017, the California Supreme Court determined the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (49 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq.) (“ICCTA”) does not preempt the application of the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970 (Pub. Res. Code § 21000 et seq.) (“CEQA”), a state statute, to a state public entity railroad project on a rail line owned by that same entity, the North Coast Rail Authority (“NCRA”). Friends of the Eel River resolves a split among the California Courts of Appeal.[1] However, the decision may conflict with federal precedent and could eventually reach the Supreme Court. As the majority opinion and the dissent both emphasize, the decision creates a direct conflict with the federal Surface Transportation Board’s (“STB”) determination that ICCTA preempts any application of CEQA to California’s state-owned, high-speed rail project.[2] Thus, the dispute over CEQA’s application to High-Speed Rail may need to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, Friends of the Eel River introduces more legal complications for the planned $64 billion bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as it appears to require that project to comply with CEQA, which could lead to additional litigation… (more)

Court Rules for Calif. in Water-Tunnel Dispute

By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM : courthousenews – excerpt

(CN) — State officials don’t have to pay landowners to access their property for environmental testing as part of a massive tunnel project that will divert water to Central and Southern California, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.
The decision reversed an opinion by the Third District Court of Appeal stating that because the testing would constitute a taking of private property, the owners would be entitled to a determination of the market value of the property rights the state was acquiring for the project.
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state can obtain a court order specifically authorizing the state Department of Water Resources, or DWR, to conduct the proposed geological activities on the properties at issue.
The court said that the precondemnation entry and testing statutes at issue do not limit the activities the state may perform to those that are only innocuous or superficial, rejecting the landowners’ claim that the state overreached in invoking the statutes for the testing at issue.
Although the decision did not specify that rent payments would be required, the Supreme Court did state that landowners can propose limitations on the testing and can seek compensation if they can show that the testing damages their land.

The court upheld the statute as authorizing the type of activities DWR sought. But it agreed with the property owners that the statute did not provide for the right of a jury trial for compensation of damages that may occur. There will be continued litigation as the court referred the matter back to the appellate court,” Matteoni said.
DWR representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday…(more)

Spring 2014 CEQA roundup

Spring 2014 CEQA roundup – For California

By Miller Starr Regalia and Arthur F. Coon : lexology – excerpt

It’s that time of year again – business mixers, the Giants in first place in the NL west, the school year winding down, the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing, coastal whale migrations, California bursting with beautiful weather, flora and fauna … and, of course, the Spring CEQA roundup!  So here goes the latest potpourri of CEQA developments, big and small:


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