On April 4, Judge William Alsup unambiguously rebuked Caltrans for failing to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of its proposed project through Richardson Grove. He found that Caltrans’ analysis was “based off of false data,” and thus its results “so implausible that they could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.” Accordingly, he ordered Caltrans to “correct the data inaccuracies … and assess the impacts of the project through the lens of a corrected analysis.” In doing so, he specifically ordered Caltrans to “set forth the environmental issues to each one” the 79 old-growth redwoods in the project’s path. He further warned, “Caltrans should give serious consideration to the other significant arguments made by plaintiffs in their motion.”
Thus, the Times-Standard’s April 5, 2012, minimization of the order’s impact, characterizing it as merely requiring Caltrans to “redo Richardson Grove maps,” is disturbingly inaccurate and misleading. As Judge Alsup acknowledged, the National Environmental Policy Act’s “mandatory in-depth analysis forces agencies to truly consider the impact of their plans.” This was precisely what I and the other members of Congress who drafted NEPA in 1970 intended, and this is precisely what Judge Alsup has now ordered Caltrans to do. To characterize this as anything other than a resounding victory for the plaintiffs, the public, the environment, and the rule of law is simply wrong.
Paul N. McCloskey Jr.