The Brown administration is abandoning legislation it proposed to insulate California's high-speed rail project from environmental lawsuits, the administration told environmentalists on Wednesday.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who is seeking legislative approval this summer to start construction on the $68 billion project, angered environmentalists when his administration proposed this month to limit the circumstances in which a court could block construction of the project under the landmark California Environmental Quality Act.
Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said a Brown adviser sent environmentalists and transportation advocates an email Wednesday indicating the Democratic governor was backing off.
Phillips said the administration suggested it could revisit the proposal later.
"They're not interested for now," she said. "So I feel like I can sleep well tonight, and there will be another day when we will have to struggle with how we can ensure that we protect environmental quality."
Brown's office declined to comment. The California High-Speed Rail Authority did not immediately return calls for comment.
The legislation proposed by the administration would have limited to the most serious cases of potential environmental harm the circumstances in which a judge could block construction of the project.
Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, had described the proposal as consisting of "pretty small, pretty technical" changes.
To environmentalists, however, the proposal amounted to an assault on the state's signature environmental protections. They are generally supportive of high-speed rail but have protested parts of the project on environmental grounds.
In addition to raising standards for blocking construction, the proposal could have made it easier for the administration to modify parts of the project without subjecting itself to further litigation.
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