Save the unarmored threespine stickleback!

A development planned for a north Los Angeles county that would create 60,000 housing units and generate tens of thousands of jobs is on hold thanks to efforts by greens who believe that limiting greenhouse gasses and saving a few obscure species trumps economic and human development.

The Newhall Ranch project has been in limbo of decades, even though it would be one of the greenest communities in America.  Apparently, not green enough.

Wall Street Journal:

With energy-efficient lighting, comprehensive recycling, bike trails and drought-tolerant landscaping, the 12,000-acre planned community would be a green Levittown. But the proposed development—one of the biggest in state history—has been under siege from its inception in 1994 by environmental activists.

The California Supreme Court recently rejected Newhall’s final environmental-impact report. The court’s legally nebulous decision could delay construction for years—and cast a pall over future development.

Newhall’s report, which the Department of Fish and Wildlife approved in 2010, was more than 5,000 pages, with hundreds of pages dedicated to analyzing its greenhouse-gas emissions as required by recent regulatory amendments to the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The state wildlife agency projected that Newhall would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 31% by 2020 relative to the California Air Resources Board’s 2008 “baseline” model. This was a larger reduction than the 29% cut that the board has mandated statewide.

The report also included measures for the developer to restore habitat for species potentially affected by the development, such as the coast horned lizard and Townsend’s big-eared bat. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials would move any unarmored threespine stickleback—a tiny fish protected under state and federal law—out of harm’s way.

No matter. The Center for Biological Diversity, along with other local green groups, sued to block the development, arguing that the state wildlife agency’s methodology for analyzing its greenhouse-gas emissions was flawed. They also contended that the stickleback conservation plan violated California’s prohibition against “taking” and “live transplanting” legally protected species—although state law allows “regulated taking” of threatened species.

California’s Second District Court of Appeal rejected all of the lawsuit’s dubious claims, but a 5-2 majority of the state Supreme Court sided with the obstructionists. The majority nitpicked the report’s methodology, conjecturing that perhaps a greater than 31% reduction in greenhouse emissions from new projects might be needed to meet the 29% statewide mandate because it could be harder to achieve efficiencies from older, already-constructed developments. There was no scientific evidence in the court record to support this hypothesis, which was floated by the state attorney general’s office.

This is a classic case of the bureaucrats and greens joining forces in an ideological effort to impose their anti-development views – with a nice assist from the courts.  It's not so much that you can't fight City Hall.  It's that you can't fight environmental extremists who have City Hall in their pocket. 

Imagine the millions of dollars that have already been spent on attorney fees, environmental impact reports, and all the bureaucratic red tape involved in getting a project like this off the ground.  Then imagine all the more productive uses that money could have been put to. 

Newhall Ranch may be killed by excessive, hysterical opposition.  And the cause of death would be strangulation by government.

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