California's high court takes up appeal by environmental groups in North Coast rail case

A three-year legal battle over the environmental impact of freight rail on the North Coast is headed to the state Supreme Court.

The case involves two environmental groups who are pushing for more rigorous study of the effects of rail service in the ecologically sensitive Eel River Canyon in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. The groups are pitted against railroad operators who contend they are exempt from state law that mandates environmental studies for land-use projects.

The suit against the North Coast Railroad Authority is one of two state appellate court cases to weigh whether public rail agencies are subject to state environmental law or operate solely under federal jurisdiction. The other case involves the state’s high-speed rail project.

The Supreme Court agreed last week to take up an appeal from environmental groups in the NCRA case after the two appellate courts came to opposite conclusions on the central legal question.

Meanwhile, a separate ruling from a federal rail regulator on Monday could ensure that both cases end up in federal court.

Article by: Matt Brown

Published by: The Press Democrat

Published: December 16, 2014

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