Has Bullet Train Been Hoisted on Its Own Petard?

California officials are notorious for ladling on one environmental regulation after another, forcing developers to spend years or even decades producing waist-deep environmental-impact reports and dealing with endless regulatory hassles and litigation. The main tool environmentalists use to stop growth is the 1970s-era California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It’s the equivalent of placing a “sue me” sign on every job site.

CEQA (pronounced “see-Kwa”) is so prone to abuse that virtually everyone in the Capitol, Republican, and Democrat, agrees it needs to be revamped. A reason the law never actually gets reformed is the political power of the environmental groups and unions who use it to their own advantage. It’s the perfect tool for opponents of growth, while unions can threaten suit to hold projects hostage until they get the wage rates they demand.

CEQA also remains uncorrected because of a disturbing double standard. Whenever there’s a big publicly funded project backed by prominent lawmakers, the first thing backers do is to exempt it from the act’s requirements. Why reform a poorly functioning law when it can be used to stop projects you don’t like, but never inhibits the ones you do like?

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