Fearing California's proposed high-speed train service could cut through farmland, devalue property and undercut a $36 billion industry, Big Agriculture may be gearing up to derail the first phase of construction before plans are even finalized.
It's not a full-fledged fight just yet, but it's shaping up to be. On one side are the growers, backed by the powerful Ag industry and armed with lobbyists. On the other is the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is responsible for the project and has already begun aligning itself with the contractors, cities and unions that stand to benefit.
"There will be lawsuits," said almond grower Keith Gardiner, who owns 3,300 acres of land in Wasco that sits directly in the path of one of the proposed routes. "If backed into a corner, yeah, we are going to come out swinging."
Members of Congress argued Monday afternoon for an amendment that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, a key priority for the agency under administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
At a markup hearing for the Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican members said repealing the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gases would bolster the economy. What they didn't mention was that the policy would also benefit the energy and natural resources sector, which makes up more than $3 million, or about 15 percent, of the collective contributions received by the 31 Republicans on the committee last year.
"This bill says 'stop' to an EPA attempting to impose policies we cannot afford that will destroy jobs we cannot afford to lose," said Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan, who proposed the bill.