Today a victory was struck for the rule of law. A decision was filed today August 16, 2013. Judge Michael Kenny stated in his ruling, “High-Speed Rail Authority abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of law. Specifically, the identification of the sources of all funds to be invested in the Initial Operating Segment (IOS) and the certification regarding completion of necessary project level environmental clearances did not comply with the requirements set forth in the plain language of Section 27045.08 9c)(2), subsections D and K.”
This means the Rail Authority was required to have both the environmental clearances at the more detailed project level and all the financing in place for the Initial Operating Segment South. That is for the first 300 miles, all the way to the San Fernando Valley, not just 130 miles.
In Judge Quentin Kopp’s declaration in the suit, the former head of the High-Speed rail said requirements to build an IOS was necessary because such provision is “for the protection of the State from risks that a portion of the system would be abandoned or uncompleted because of lack of money to finish construction. Such rigid funding protections are an integral part of the statutory scheme and ballot measure. The present HSR plan does not contain those protections.” Another reason for a section as large as the IOS was necessary to create a real usable segment that provides the ridership necessary to support a subsidy free transportation corridor as required by Prop 1A.
This case known as the Prop1A Tos/Fukuda/Kings County lawsuit is the only civil suit that has been filed against the Authority and it argued in part one of their case that the High-Speed Rail authority violated a contract with the public with the bond measure was passed in 2008.
When the Authority put forth their funding plan in 2011, they did not have the environmental work completed, they talked about completion in the future tense not the past tense which the judge noted during the trial. There was not adequate funding for the Initial Operating Segment called the IOS South, therefore they invented the phrase Initial Construction Segment (ICS) and in fact no one knows how many miles out of the smaller section, will actually be constructed. This segment was sold to the public and the legislature as spanning 130 miles. Many predict it could be as little as half for six billion dollars and it will not operate high-speed rail trains.
Michael Brady, co-counsel for the case stated, “We were very pleased that the judge correctly decided what the detailed provisions of Prop 1A required and the safeguards that were present in that law. The Authority had not complied with those safeguards and requirements.”
The judge did not immediately halt spending. More technical discussion of how the remedies will play out will be discussed with the parties. It’s very complex and will be debated in court but it may be as simple as the legislature has the right to allocate money but the Authority cannot obligate it until the project complies with the law. See the ruling: http://californiahighspeedrailscam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2013-0...
Michael Brady and Stuart Flashman are co-counsels on the case. Part 2 of the case is expected to begin soon and will delve into more finite promises made to the voters such as the travel time for the train and the questions about ridership and operational costs that appear to point to state subsidy forbidden by Prop 1A. See the article written on the court case. http://www.examiner.com/article/prop-1a-suit-begins-and-challenges-california-s-rail-project
Federal funding has been suspected in creating unrealistic timelines in order to grab $3.3 billion and in fact many argue created such a frenzy that project work has not been done properly because of those tight timelines. Completion of the smaller segment by Federal guidelines must be completed by the fall of 2017. There is a vast difference of what was required under Prop 1A and what is described in the Federal funding agreements for the grant money.
Some had predicted that the Judge would not rule against such a politically popular project but for the moment faith has been restored in the legal system. California voters may be the clear victors. Score one for the voters.