Ruling that CA high court upheld hardly favorable to bullet train

Ruling that CA high court upheld hardly favorable to bullet train

high-speed-rail-map-320I talked to a couple of insider types Thursday who asked me to explain my take on Wednesday’s California Supreme Court announcement on the bullet train. After all that’s gone down, they couldn’t believe that the justices would clear the way for the state to begin selling bonds for the $68 billion boondoggle, and that’s what they were reading in AP and the L.A. Times.

They were right to wonder about the MSM coverage. The state Supreme Court declined to review a state appellate court ruling that said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny was wrong to block bond sales in his November 2013 decision on the project.

But in the big picture, the appeals court ruling that the state high court upheld is hardly favorable to the state government or the bullet train:

The appeals court that vacated … Kenny’s ruling to block the project did not say that Kenny’s conclusion that the HSRA violated Proposition 1A was wrong. Instead, the decision held that a trial judge had no authority to block construction until the legislature and the High Speed Rail Authority approved a final business plan.

“The scope of our decision is quite narrow,” the judges wrote in the first paragraph.

The decision went on to reinforce two key protections contained in Proposition 1A — both meant to ensure that the state didn’t spend billions on initial construction only to run out of money before a financially viable train system could be built. Judge Kenny ruled that the state had to identify “sources of funds that were more than theoretically possible” in explaining how it would pay for the project’s $31 billion, 300-mile initial operating segment. He also said that the HSRA had to complete environmental reviews for the entire segment before construction could begin. The appeals court contradicted him on neither point.

The appellate court underscored that the law requires the state to establish “financial viability” for the bullet train’s first segment by adhering to a voter-approved “financial straitjacket.” It said that bond funds could only be spent after a funding plan gained approvals from the state finance department, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, and an independent financial analyst who certified the plan’s soundness — specifically that if built as planned, the bullet train could operate without a taxpayer subsidy. The appeals court judges also agreed with Judge Kenny that the rail authority had to obtain “all the requisite environmental clearances before construction begins.”

These are shortcomings that [the state of California] cannot easily finesse.

That’s from a City Journal piece I wrote last month.

Money isn’t coming from state, feds or contractors

ceqaI got a little pushback on the assertion that the environmental clearances requirement can’t be finessed from those who see the state’s establishment as so corrupt that some judge somewhere can be persuaded to go along with sham claims from the state. But I don’t think it will be that easy. Environmentalists will freak out if the California Environmental Quality Act is sidestepped on a big project because of the precedent it would set. Powerful greens and groups like the Sierra Club and the NRDC like having CEQA be a powerful tool to block growth, and if the bullet train is collateral damage, so be it.

But I got no credible pushback and really never have on my assertion that the $25 billion or so funding shortfall for construction of the initial $31 billion, 300-mile segment cannot be finessed. That’s just too much of a gap.

The slice of cap-and-trade revenue going to the bullet train is so small compared with the project’s overall budget needs that Associated Press called it “symbolic.” The federal government isn’t going to pay for California’s project in an era in which domestic discretionary spending is the no. 1 target of budget hawks in both parties. And while rail authority board chair Dan Richard may have convinced James Fallows and one naive state reporter that bullet train contractors are bullet train investors, that claim is laughable.

I invite Richard or Fallows or anyone to show me a single bullet-train project anywhere in the world in which private investors were lured in without promises of minimum annual revenue or ridership.

They won’t because they can’t. And such guarantees are banned for the California bullet train under Proposition 1A, the 2008 state law approved by the voters giving the go-ahead to the bullet train project.

Will the state figure out a way to waste billions of dollars on a white elephant rail line in the Central Valley? Maybe.

But call me naive: I actually think that Proposition 1A’s safeguards will kick in and save the day — as soon as the rail authority, the Legislature and the Brown administration ratify a new business plan.


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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 17 October, 2014, 10:42

    Chris, I’d be happy to send you a box of napkins for your future video if you’re shorthanded. You don’t seem to understand how the bureuacracy works. Whatever the ruling class wants, the ruling class gets. You can stomp your feet about the law until you turn blue in the face. None of it matters anymore, Chris. The Constitution and the laws are being violated by those who call the shots on a weekly basis. If you interpret the sky to be blue, but they say it’s green, it doesn’t matter what you see or think. It’s green. The ruling class always wins in 2014. The gov arms the drug lords. The police can seize your money based on ‘probable cause’ and you have to prove the money in innocent to get it back! lol. The ‘burden of proof’ is on you! lol. The gov protects the poppy fields in Afghanistan as part of the ‘war on drugs’! lol. The banks launder trillions in drug money. Illegal high-frequency trading in the financial markets all day long. The medical industry robs us of $2T dollar each year via monopoly pricing supposedly illegal ant-trust laws. ObamaCare is a tax! lol. IRSgate and computer crashes! lol! Global warming and cap ‘n trade. No one goes to jail, Chris. Not one gov official or corporate sugar daddy is thrown in the slammer! lol!
    At some point we have to accept life at face value – not how we want it to be or how is SHOULD be. It is what it is, my man. Do you prefer scented or unscented napkins?

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 17 October, 2014, 15:21


    El Clippo is the seat cushion for the power brokers….he understands when you are ruled it is futile to resist total domination of will, spirit, gold.

    You cannot depress him further. Stop trying.

    We had high hopes when he returned. Pity.

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 17 October, 2014, 17:26

      If Vegas had a wager line on whether the crazy train would materialize (or not) I would quadruple down. NEVER vote against the ruling class. It would be like betting against the morning sun rising in the east. Make sure you’re stocked up on napkins.

      Reply this comment
      • T Mind of Ted Your God
        T Mind of Ted Your God 17 October, 2014, 19:10

        Oh MY Uhaul— We did have high hopes for “Little Boy” Colapso!

        And to be honest– he has NOT disappointed! I enjoy watching the lad decompensate before our eyes using his preteen rhetoric!

        Reply this comment
        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 17 October, 2014, 21:49

          It’s been a tough week on the boards for ya, tedtard. Take a day off tomorrow and go to the zoo, champ. Wind down and chill out. Saturday’s are always fun for your type. They bring extra animals to the petting zoo. But behave yourself. Animals have feelings too! 🙂

          Reply this comment
          • T Mind of Ted Your God
            T Mind of Ted Your God 18 October, 2014, 22:13

            Collapso— Is “tard” short for retard? Making fun of the developmentally disabled to prove your 7th grade point, again? Didn’t your folks have the class to raise you better than that?

            Are u 12?


  3. Robert S. Allen
    Robert S. Allen 17 October, 2014, 20:36

    Prop 1A (2008) was titled “The Safe. Reliable…” HSR. Blended Rail (HSR on Caltrain tracks as proposed) would be NEITHER SAFE NOR RELIABLE.

    Caltrain, with commuter station platforms and dozens of road crossings, runs at a top speed of 79 mph. CHSRA would raise that to 125 mph. (We fence 65 mph freeways against intrusion and cross-traffic, and rubber-tired vehicles stop much faster than trains.) HSR trains at that speed would be highly vulnerable to accidental, or even deliberate, mishap.

    Amtrak, on 79 mph track in 1999, hit a rebar-laden truck at a grade crossing in Bourbonnais, Illinois, derailing two locomotives and 11 of 14 cars. 11 passengers died and 128 people were injured. More recently ACE hit an empty gravel truck at a private grade crossing near Livermore. Things happen. HSR needs a secure, fenced, and grade-separated track. Fortunately the gravel truck was empty and the one at Bourbonnais was not loaded with gasoline.

    Initially HSR to the Bay Area should run only to San Jose, with good connections there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, VTA Light Rail, and the planned SV-BART. A better alternative north is along the UP/Amtrak Mulford line to Oakland and on to Sacramento. From a new transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland, four downtown San Francisco stations are six to ten minutes away, with 16 trains per hour.

    Safety should trump the fabled “one-seat ride”. Don’t squander precious HSR funds electrifying and extending Caltrain tracks that HSR cannot safely use.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 17 October, 2014, 20:38


    He will crack…..patience…..

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 19 October, 2014, 15:38


    The end is near.

    Reply this comment
    • T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted
      T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted 21 October, 2014, 20:24

      Face it collapso— you’re a drop out doomer with no future– move on kook.

      The choo choo is on it’s way—–I can’t wait!

      jobs jobs jobs! Smaller carbon footprint– whats not to like?

      Reply this comment

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