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State high court to review SANDAG lawsuit

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The state Supreme Court appears to have given the San Diego Association of Governments a lifeline for its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, a 40-year blueprint approved by the planning group in 2011.

SANDAG announced March 12 that the court has granted its request for a review of an appellate court decision on the transportation plan’s environmental impact report. The ruling, reached last November in the 4th District Court of Appeal, stated in a split decision that SANDAG did not fully comply with state environmental laws.

The original ruling that brought the case to the court came in December 2012, when San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled that plans for transportation emissions reductions and projected emissions in the report failed to comply with state laws enacted in 2008.

The 2050 RTP outlines $214 billion in transportation investments. Its environmental document was first challenged by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, with other petitioners that came to include state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The 2050 RTP shows the region meeting decreases in emissions through 2035, but beyond 2035 shows a drop-off in emissions reductions without saying why.

Ever since the first ruling from Taylor, SANDAG has said that because its transportation plan projects more than 10 years beyond what the law required, and because such long-range projections are speculative, it should be found to have done its job correctly.

SANDAG updates its regional transportation plan every four years and is completing its next update, which is still based on the 2050 RTP.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to grant review is a key step forward to help clarify state law on greenhouse gas emissions,” SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale said.

“The appellate court decision left agencies throughout the state with questions on what standards to apply. We are hopeful the court will help resolve the confusion.”

SANDAG said the Supreme Court would hear arguments on whether the EIR for a regional transportation plan must include an analysis of the plan's consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals reflected in an executive order by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A hearing date was not announced.

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