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California

High-speed rail backers lose another round in court

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2016, file photo, Dan Richard, chairman of the board that oversees the Calif
Dan Richard, chairman of the board that oversees the California High-Speed Rail Authority, displays a map showing the planned route for the bullet train.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s high-speed rail backers suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a U.S. appeals court dismissed as merely advisory a federal board’s decision declaring the project immune from the state’s environmental laws.

Opponents of the bullet train, which is planned to connect San Francisco to Southern California, had asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal board’s declaration that federal laws superseded California laws for the rail project.

Instead, a 9th Circuit panel dismissed the case, saying the decision by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board was merely advisory.

The decision complemented a ruling last week by the California Supreme Court, which found that the rail project was subject to a tough state environmental law.

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The Surface Transportation Board, which had issued the opinion that would have protected the project from lawsuits, said a decision declaring the project free from California laws had no force.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

Twitter: @mauradolan

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