The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), a state regulatory agency which regulates privately owned public utilities in the state of California, including electric power, telecommunications, natural gas and water companies, is going to take a second look at the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line. Responding to a complaint filed by Neighbors for Smart Rail, a homeowner’s group on the Westside that has made no secret of its desire to stop the Expo Line at all costs, four CPUC Commissioners ordered a review of the environmental documents for the extension of the light rail line from the Culver City Station to Downtown Santa Monica.
CPUC originally gave Expo the green light in November of last year. Neighbors for Smart Rail asked for a second review arguing that CPUC didn’t follow its own rules set out by policy and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the Expo Construction Authority failed to study every intersection of the rail line.
The review will consist of a thorough review of the environmental documents and a hearing. The “order for rehearing” could result in little more than a review by staff that does little to impact the timeline of the project. However, when CPUC looked at Phase I, they ordered the construction of a rail station adjacent to Dorsey High School that wasn’t in the original plans adding cost and delay to the project.
CPUC is ordering a review of two rail crossings not studied in the initial environmental documents. Despite warnings from advocates, Expo failed to study the I-405 grade-separated crossing and the Palms Park pedestrian-bridge crossing. At the least, it seems likely that the Expo Construction Authority will have to submit an addendum to the existing environmental reports.
The prehearing conference is set on October 5, 2012, at 10:00 am at the Commission Courtroom, State Office Building, 505 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA. At this conference, attorneys for both sides and the judge assigned to the case will decide the scope and timeline for the review.
So for now, construction continues unabated as Expo watchers wait for CPUC and a decision from the State Supreme Court on whether or not it will hear a separate complaint from Neighbors for Smart Rail CEQA complaint against the rail line’s environmental documents.