Why Doesn’t California Give All Businesses A Waiver From Environmental Challenges?

california-high-speed-rail-project

Setting aside the fiscal issues surrounding the $100 billion boondoggle-in-the-works high speed rail line California is trying to build from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the state is currently seeking waivers from environmental regulations for the project.

This for something that is supposed to make travel in the state more environmentally friendly.

The Brown administration is preparing a proposal to limit environmental challenges to California’s high-speed rail project, heightening legal standards under which a court could block construction.

The proposal could shield the $68 billion project from court-ordered injunctions that might otherwise be issued under the California Environmental Quality Act. Except in the most serious environmental cases, the proposed legislation would let construction proceed while the California High-Speed Rail Authority fixes any environmental flaws identified by a judge.

The proposal is likely to be considered by the Legislature this month or next. Environmentalists expected to be briefed by administration officials on the plan next week.

Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, said the proposal consists of “pretty small, pretty technical” changes. It would allow a judge to block construction in major cases – if opponents showed, for example, that an endangered species was threatened with extinction, he said.

“Why not just change the laws so that anyone who wants to build, open, or operate a business can do so, allowing judges to stop it only when ‘the most serious environmental cases’ arise?” asks Ed Morrissey. “We can then let farmer farm, investors open new businesses, and energy producers generate the electricity and fuel California needs to power its economy — and that big choo-choo they’re building astride the San Andreas Fault, too.”

Sounds like a good idea to me. Red tape is choking California’s economy. Less red tape would mean more jobs and more prosperity.

But beyond that, there’s an equal protection issue here too I think. Why should the state get to exempt itself from laws that the private sector must follow? Why, in general, should government get to pick and choose which businesses or projects or people laws will and will not apply to?

Another good example of this is Obamacare, from which thousands of individual businesses, organizations and even entire municipalities and states have been exempted.

I don’t think it’s good precedent to allow the government to pass laws, and then discriminate on their application.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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