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California bullet train chief seeks environmental exemptions

The chief of the state bullet train authority said Tuesday that he hopes to obtain some type of relief from environmental laws that would eliminate a risk that the 130-mile initial construction project could be stopped by an injunction, a potentially growing prospect as agriculture interests in the Central Valley gear up for a legal fight.

At a state Senate hearing, Chairman Dan Richard also said the agency plans to spend the entire $6 billion of initial construction money within a 2017 deadline set by the federal government.

In the past, Richard has insisted the California High-Speed Rail Authority would not seek an outright exemption from state or federal environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act. At the hearing, Richard said that if the project ends up in a lawsuit he would hope the matter would involve mitigations rather than an injunction.

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-- Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times