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Calif. bullet train project under review

March 29, 2012 at 4:03 PM

SACRAMENTO, March 29 (UPI) -- Proponents of a bullet train in California say they are exploring ways to relax environmental review procedures on the high-speed rail project

Environmental groups confirm they have been in talks with California's bullet train authority and representatives of Gov. Jerry Brown's administration about some type of relief from possible environmental challenges to the project, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The massive $98.5-billion system is falling behind schedule and risks losing federal funding as it faces a faces a daunting environmental review process.

Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority, said new plans to blend the bullet train system into existing San Francisco and Southern California commuter rail systems have altered the project design and may require a re-doing of the environmental review already completed for the Bay Area.

"It is a technical issue," Richard said. "It is a characterization issue. All I have done is raise it with people and see how we can deal with it."

The state was not seeking to bypass any laws or seeking any exemptions from regulations, he said.

Environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Planning and Conservation League Foundation say they are willing to discuss small-scale concessions but will fight any wholesale exemption from the environmental process, the Times reported.

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