Agency hopes to resolve dispute over road plan, greenhouse gas rules

Friday, Dec. 7—

San Diego Association of Governments plans to pursue a settlement with plaintiffs in a lawsuit against its regional transportation plan but will appeal a recent court decision if the two sides fail to reach agreement.

Judge Timothy Taylor ruled earlier this week that SANDAG did not comply with 2008 state rules on lowering emissions when the regional planning agency developed the RTP, which coordinates transportation projects through 2050. His decision, in a lawsuit filed by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation and backed by other environmental organizations and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, invalidated the plan’s environmental impact report.

Siding with the plan’s critics, the judge ruled that the emissions contemplated in the RTP violate state law enacted four years ago in an executive order by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Taylor found that SANDAG wrongly concluded that the failure to meet emission standards would not create a significant impact on the environment.

SANDAG issued a statement following a closed-session meeting by its board of directors today saying it would continue settlement negotiations to resolve differences over the interpretation of climate change regulations.

The organization said it worked hard and in good faith to meet the new standards and that its plans were cleared by Caltrans and the California Air Resources Board.

The judge wrote in his ruling that he expected the case to be appealed, since SANDAG is the first major agency to develop a plan affected by future emissions standards. He noted that the RTP involved thousands of hours of effort by numerous professionals who took some risk in being the first to tackle the new greenhouse gas rules.

“It has always been SANDAG’s intention to comply with greenhouse gas emission laws and regulations as directed by state agencies,” reads the board’s statement.

In making adjustments to lower the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, SANDAG conceivably could choose fewer road projects and make more and quicker investments in public transportation as part of the 2050 RTP. Among projects in its 2050 plan is widening State Route 67 to four lanes alsong the 16-mile stretch from Mapleview Drive in Lakeside to Dye Road in Ramona.

   
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