The next step will be Oral Argument at the Court of Appeal.
This case is significant, in that a victory for Appellants could invalidate the ridership model, which is the foundation of all the EIRs the CHSRA will rely on for its Central Valley project. It could also force a whole new EIR, which would review the alternative of an Altamont Corridor in a less-biased manner.
On October 15, 2012, petitioners in the Atherton I and Atherton II cases filed their Appellants Opening Brief, challenging several elements of a largely favorable court ruling back in February. For the brief, and details, see the bottom of this page.
Two days later, our team filed an Objection to the Authority’s Return on the Writ. This is a procedure in which the High-Speed Rail Authority, represented by the Attorney General’s office, is seeking to demonstrate that it has completed a series of actions ordered by the Court, back in February. The Authority claims that its April 2012 Partially Revised Final Program EIR complies with CEQA. Our Objection claims that the EIR violates CEQA because it refuses to analyze as an EIR alternative the Blended System described in the Revised 2012 Business Plan. For details, see this page. Read More...
With all the slurs flying around now, it is important to note that SNCF was not asking CHSRA to turn the project over to them. They were instead asking that CHSRA establish a Request for Qualifications process, leading to an open Request for Proposals process, which would result in the selection of an operator. They were totally aware that the winning proposer could be another firm.
Note that, despite all the recent talk about the merits and demerits of an I-5 route, the SNCF proposal was not premised on a specific route. It was solely a process to bring in private capital and an experienced operator.
The Authority’s rejection of this seemingly commonsense proposal to reduce the risk to the State of California raises disturbing questions of where CHSRA’s loyalties lay. CHSRA’s 2012 Business Plan insists untruthfully that no private firms would invest in the project until after (1) the State had spent $6 billion on 130 miles of Central Valley track, (2) somehow found $27 billion to connect it to Los Angeles, and then (3) showed an operating profit. By contrast, the SNCF proposal would have brought in the expertise needed for critical design decisions along with private capital willing to assume ridership risk, thereby greatly reducing the State’s exposure.
By rejecting the proposal, keeping it secret, and then mounting an all-hands-on-deck damage control effort to snuff out the story, CHSRA is clearly telling the world that its commitment to its army of consultants outstrips its commitment to the people of California.
In response to the stunning levels of vitriol and bad faith, TRANSDEF posted these comments:
After first responding to the SNCF story with a deer-in-the-headlights "No comment," CHSRA is now in full damage control mode. The sheer number of slurs and easily disprovable allegations in Richard's letter indicates panic over this story. As second fiddle in CHSRA's attack machine, Robert resorts to making stuff up, too.
The vehemence of the combined response says we've struck a nerve. That's a tacit admission that SNCF made a proposal that somehow threatened the status quo.
Consider this one point: If the proposal was even a quarter as bad as alleged here, why would the Authority have clamped such a tight lid of secrecy on it? It just doesn't wash...
Readers of this blog are invited to check out the other side of the story on our website: transdef.org (Robert could even add it to his blog roll!)
BTW, note that 'the significant controversy over SNCF's role in the Holocaust' arose only after SNCF made its proposal, potentialy disrupting the CHSRA's happy family of consultants. Did Bob Blumenfield suddenly wake up one day, outraged by the injustice? Or was this a commercial counterattack, disguised as the voice of conscience?