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Opening briefs have been filed in a November 2011 lawsuit launched by environmental groups Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity against the San Diego Association of Governments over their 2050 Regional Transit Plan.

The plan is intended to outline the region’s transit goals over the next 40 years, balancing demand for bus and light rail transit, surface streets, walking and cycling paths, and freeways. It is significant in that federal funding cannot be used on projects not identified by the plan as priority items.

In their suit, the groups allege that the Association “used a deficient process to develop a flawed plan that will invest heavily in freeways at the expense of public transit, increase pollution and exacerbate global climate change.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced in January that she would intervene in the suit, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the plan’s Environmental Impact Report fails to adequately address air pollution and climate concerns. The action was consistent with advice she sent last September, prior to the Association’s adoption of the plan.

The final report, despite a stated goal of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below those in 1990 by 2050, says implementation of the plan would result in a net pollution gain between now and 2050.

“Business as usual is simply not going to cut it if we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change,” says Kevin Bundy, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the [Association] Board of Governors keeps kicking the can down the road. No more excuses: [the Association] must go back to the drawing board and adopt a plan that sets a new course for the region.”

“This lawsuit is our only recourse for ensuring a cleaner, more livable future for the region,” adds Rachel Hooper of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, attorney for Cleveland National Forest Foundation and Sierra Club.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for November 30 of this year.

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