Senators share their doubts about bullet train financing with rail officials

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California’s plan to pay for construction of the $64-billion bullet train has many unanswered questions and shaky assumptions, senators from across the state told rail officials Monday.

“We want you to beef up your financing package,” Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), a longtime supporter of the high-speed project, said at a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, which he chairs.

Republican lawmakers were even tougher. “I think the financing is shaky here,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “It seems like it is careening down the tracks.”

The committee was responding to a draft business plan the California High-Speed Rail Authority released in February. The authority said …

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High-Speed Rail Needs More Oversight, Audit

high speed rail trainThe Jan. 27, 2016, Assembly Budget Subcommittee hearing labeled “Oversight of High Speed Rail” turned out to be anything but a hearing on oversight.  (Video of Hearing)

The hearing, prompted by pressure from Republicans when an explosive LA Times article reported the Authority had failed to include and ignored cost increases predicted by its prime contractor, Parsons Binkerhoff (PB), while the 2014 business plan was developed and published.

The cost increase predicted by the PB report was about $9 billion, a 31 percent increase for the Merced to Burbank segment.  The report also showed an overall increase of about 5 percent for the whole Phase I of the project, with a net increase of about $3.5 billion to the baseline project for the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment.  Indeed the 2014 business plan, simply incorporated the 2012 business plan cost estimate of $68 billion. 

Reading the staff report prepared for the hearing, it was easy to predict the result of the hearing. The staff report included “cut and paste” excerpts from the Authority’s business plan, but no such excerpts from the LA Times’ article.  The only speakers were to be from the Authority, Dan Richard (Chair) and Jeff Morales (CEO).  From the Authority’s Peer Review Group Lou Thompson appeared.

Thus the whole hearing was setup to be a “white wash” of the issues the Times’ article raised.

Richard spent about 10 minutes telling the world (again) how well run and open the Authority has been in carrying out this project.

Then Morales gave his input, essentially seeking to discredit the Times’ article by claiming the PB report included going all the way to Burbank whereas the comparison cost routing would stop at Sylmar (about 16 miles shorter in distance). Morales claimed about $4.5 billion of the cost difference was due to the PB report extending the segment to Burbank. Claiming this extension would cost $4.5 billion to go only 16 miles on level surface when a corridor like the San Fernando road could be used, is simply not believable. The other $4.5 billion of the PB projected cost increase was simply discarded by the Authority by claiming elimination of elevated structures in the PB estimate with building on berms would save this $4.5 billion.

This brings up the question of why pay PB to produce cost estimates, when the Authority can just claim we will build the segment differently and substitute our own costs? All of this testimony from Morales came without his producing any data for his testimony, since all of this is labeled “DRAFT.”

The Authority surely needs more oversight. Lou Thompson echoed this need in his testimony. The Authority resists additional oversight with all its might.

Morales had written the Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee a letter in which he was opposed to the approval of an audit of the Authority proposed by Senator Andy Vidak.

Let me give you a personal example for this need.

I commented on the need for an audit of the Authority previously. Since that article was published, additional information has appeared.

The reply from the Authority on Sept. 18, 2015, to my public record request of Sept 8th 2015, stated:

The June 30 Funding Contribution Plan (FCP) is expected to be posted in the near future.When it is available, it will be posted to the following website:  http://www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Funding_Finance/funding_agreements.html

The June 30 FCP was indeed finally posted on Jan. 21, 2016. That is about 4.5 months after my request. But what is really interesting is an inspection of the FCP reveals it was produced on July 28, 2015 (see the properties snapshot of the FCP) the FCP was available well before my initial request. Public Record Requests are mandated by law to be filled within 10 days, not 4.5 months later.

Los Angeles Times reporter, Ralph Vartabedian, has authored another article since the Jan. 27 committee hearing. It explains a lot.

The High Speed Rail project is the largest such endeavor in the nation. It needs more oversight and it needs an audit from the non-partisan State Auditor now. It is time for the Democratic  legislative leadership and the Authority to stop denying such an audit.

esident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Audit the California High Speed Rail Authority

high speed rail trainThe California High Speed Rail Authority once again opposes oversight of its actions. On Tuesday the Joint Legislative Audit Committee held a hearing on the request by state Senator Andy Vidak to have the State Auditor conduct an audit of the Authority’s activities.

The Committee, on a strictly party line vote, denied the request. The request was triggered by the explosive Sunday, Oct 25th L.A. Times article, which disclosed a previously undisclosed report by the Authority’s contractor, Parson Brinkerhoff (PB).  The report projected a $9 billion increase in construction costs of the initial Merced to Burbank segment. (The article also disclosed from interviews with experts, that time lines, and budget targets would not be met.) 

The Times article, authored by Ralph Vartabedian, noted the cost increase report was delivered months before the 2014 business plan was released. The 2014 business plan did not include the projected $9 billion cost increase and instead continued to use cost projections from the 2012 business plan.

The first responses from the Authority to the Times article were: We don’t know about such a report, followed then by a blunt statement from Authority Chair Dan Richard, stating the article was “bunk.”

The Authority’s often-restated position is that the Authority is the most transparent of public agencies. Yet its actions reveal a completely different picture.

The Times article, was followed by numerous Freedom of Information act requests, which belatedly forced the Authority to release the report. The report was in the form a PowerPoint presentation, and was presented several months before the 2014 Business Plan was released.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins then announced that a hearing would be held on the issues raised in the article. The hearing is now set to take place on Jan 27th.  Indeed the argument used by Democrats at the JLAC hearing to deny the audit was that an audit by the State Auditor was unnecessary and would be redundant to what would be revealed at the Legislative hearing.

But there is a whole world of difference between an audit conducted by the non-partisan State Auditor, and any legislative hearing being conducted by a Democratic controlled committee. Indeed, already announced by Atkins was that subpoenas would not be issued by the committee conducting the hearing.

Transparency and oversight in the Authority’s view, have many restrictions. The Authority denies many public record requests using one excuse or another. Many times disclosure comes only after immense pressure is exerted on the Authority. This was certainly the case which finally caused the release of the Powerpoint report disclosed in the LA Times article. This was also the case regarding final disclosure last year to the public, of the responses from private investors to the Authority’s request for Expressions of Interest in the project. (None of the finally revealed 36 responses indicated any willingness to invest.)

The Authority, throughout its existence, has used many tactics to avoid oversight. During 2010 to 2012, when the state Senate Housing and Transportation committee was led by Democrats, Senators Alan Lowenthal and Joe Simitian, numerous hearings were held and on many occasions the committee had to fight very hard to obtain needed information.

Last year the Authority managed to get the Legislature to remove the Authority’s obligation to report twice yearly and instead only reporting once every 2 years; removing one more level of oversight.

During the JLAC hearing on Tuesday, the State Auditor, Elaine Howle, presented her plan for the audit. She disclosed the audit would take about 2,100 hours and would need 5 months to complete. Considering the Authority has now spent almost $2 billion, the cost of this modest audit was hardly a consideration. Nevertheless, the Democrat-controlled committee rejected the request.

The Authority has stopped releasing the Funding Contribution Plans. These reports are mandated by the funding agreement between the Authority and the Federal Railway Administration (FRA). The reports are due quarterly within 30 days after the end of a quarter. The last report disclosed was the March 2015 report. Thus, as of this date, the June and Sept. 2015 reports are delinquent, and at the end of this month, the Dec. 2015 report will also be past due. These are the key reports showing how the Authority is performing on its project. Apparently the FRA has quit worrying about the Authority’s compliance with the funding agreement. The FRA has thus far not replied to my Freedom of Information request concerning the missing Funding Contribution Plans.

A just released poll from the Stanford University Hoover Institution reported “53 percent of Californians would vote for a ballot measure ending high-speed rail and using the unspent money on water-storage projects.” (poll details) The poll also reveals only 20 percent strongly approve, whereas 33 percent strongly disapprove of the California HSR project.

esident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Why Aren’t Unions Fighting California’s Bullet Train Boondoggle?

Photo courtesy of Jon Curnow, flickr

Photo courtesy of Jon Curnow, flickr

Back in 2008, voters in California approved Prop. 1, a statewide initiative to spend “$9 billion for building a new high-speed railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

Total cost, $9.5 billion. Remember that?

Quoting further from the original initiative’s ballot language:

Bond Costs. The costs of these bonds would depend on interest rates in effect at the time they are sold and the time period over which they are repaid. The state would make principal and interest payments from the state’s General Fund over a period of about 30 years. If the bonds are sold at an average interest rate of 5 percent, the cost would be about $19.4 billion to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion). The average repayment for principal and interest would be about $647 million per year. Operating Costs. When constructed, the high-speed rail system will incur unknown ongoing maintenance and operation costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year. Depending on the level of ridership, these costs would be at least partially offset by revenue from fares paid by passengers.” (ref. UC Hastings Scholarship Repository, Propositions, California Ballot Propositions and Ballot Initiatives)

Over time, fantasy always yields to reality.

The most recent reputable estimate of high-speed rail costs come from an in-depth special report published last month by the Los Angeles Times, entitled “$68-billion California bullet train project likely to overshoot budget and deadline targets.”

The title of that special report says it all. California’s high-speed rail was sold to voters for an amount that is at least seven times less than our most recent estimate of costs, and if the author of the LA Times special report is to be believed, it is very unlikely this project will come in for a total cost under $100 billion.

High-speed rail was sold to voters back in 2008 in roughly the same way pension benefit enhancements were sold to naive politicians back around 1999. In both cases, the decision makers were told it would cost next to nothing. Isn’t this called fraud? To sell a good or service to a consumer at a given price, then come back and demand ten times as much money?

Payments on these construction costs will be paid from the California state general fund, and based on a $100 billion total cost and a 5.0 percent interest rate, that comes out to $166 per year per California resident. Not that much? Unimpressed? Put another way, based on roughly 6 million taxpaying households in California (about half of California’s 12 million households pay no taxes; their sales tax burden is largely offset by the earned income tax credit), construction of this train will cost $1,084 per taxpaying household per year.

Do you want to pay $1,000 per year for a project that will not alleviate California’s transportation challenges one bit? A project that will lose money forever? A project that will use up massive amounts of capital that could be deployed to achieve literally dozens of other huge and vitally needed infrastructure objectives?

This is where California’s labor leadership, by continuing to support high-speed rail as a centerpiece project, are showing how out of touch they truly are with the average working family. Because they are unwilling to fight for major infrastructure investments that would improve the quality of life and lower the cost of living for all Californians; improvements to existing rail, upgraded roads, state-of-the art natural gas and 5th generation nuclear power stations, reservoirs and aquifer storage projects, upgraded sewage treatment plants to produce potable water, and much, much more. If California’s labor leaders care about all workers, they will find the vision and courage to fight for these useful amenities, instead of promoting high speed rail.

20151123-UW-HSR

High Speed Rail CEO Jeff Morales made $477,760 in 2014

A legitimate role for government spending is to make strategic investments that reduce costs for basic necessities. That is what makes a nation prosperous. That is a proper use of public funds. Artificially inflating the costs for energy, water and transportation – which is the current policy of California’s government, abetted by big labor in this state – is a crime against the people of California.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Embarrassing Details Threaten to Derail High-Speed Rail

A new special report conducted by the Los Angeles Times has thrown very cold water on the California High Speed Rail Authority’s plans for bringing a bullet train to the Golden State.

Through an in-depth investigation, the paper revealed embarrassing details of the train’s lurching progress toward an apparent morass of spiraling costs, spooked investors and — worst of all — an engineering disaster in the making.

Heads in the sand

In one particularly galling example of misfeasance, when California’s main project management contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff, raised the alarm years ago, it was simply ignored by the authority’s top brass. A document obtained by the Times revealed that Parsons Brinckerhoff had briefed state officials on the spiraling cost projections in October of 2013. “But the state used a lower cost estimate when it issued its 2014 business plan four months later,” noted the Times. “Jeff Morales, the rail authority chief executive, said he was not aware of the Parsons Brinckerhoff projection. A spokeswoman for the authority declined to discuss the differences in the estimates.”

Opposition to California’s high-speed rail project has been strong since Gov. Jerry Brown first threw his weight firmly behind the idea. Critics have predictably held up the Times report as proof that they saw its failures coming from a figurative mile away. As the Reason Foundation suggested as early as 2008, “cost overruns were likely, state and federal funding would not be sufficient to cover the costs of the project, the state would have to spend more money, and private investors would not be making up the difference,” as Scott Shackford noted at Reason.com.

A policy earthquake

The challenges revealed by the report go far beyond those objections, however, raising the specter of dangerous environmental damage done virtually blind. “It will be the most ambitious tunneling project in U.S. history. Crews will have to cross the tectonic boundary that separates the North American and Pacific plates, boring through rock formations and earthquake faults, some of which are not mapped,” the San Francisco Chronicle noted. James Monsees, “one of the world’s top tunneling experts and an author of the federal manual on highway tunneling,” said the plan was unrealistic. “Faults are notorious for causing trouble,” he cautioned.

That trouble could well become calamitous — especially given California’s propensity for large earthquakes affecting populations centers. As the Los Angeles Times added:

“A 2012 report by Parsons Brinckerhoff, obtained by The Times, warned the rail authority that the ‘seismotectonic complexity … may be unprecedented’ and that the rail route would be crossing faults classified as ‘hazardous.’”

But the tunnel trouble arose from the authority’s inability to surmount public criticism to easier, more direct routes. “The original plan was to build the train route up along the 14 Freeway, but a host of nearby residents from Pacoima to Acton, many freaked out about a high-walled train corridor cutting through their towns,” according to Curbed Los Angeles. “Angry citizens in San Fernando even interrupted an informational meeting in on the rail project to protest its dangers to the local economy and the ‘death wall’ that would split the town in two along the route.”

That led the authority toward the current, disparaged tunneling plan — and, last month, a request for “permission to test-drill deep beneath the Angeles National Forest to determine the feasibility of digging a rail tunnel through the rugged San Gabriel Mountains near Santa Clarita,” as the San Gabriel Valley Tribune noted. Among officials, the fear of another public outcry has yet to abate. “In what only can be described as an unusual process, the U.S. Forest Service is asking the public for their thoughts on whether to allow the rail authority to proceed with its tunnel study,” the Tribune added.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

VIDEO: California’s high-speed rail to come in well above $68B budget?

“Taxifornia” author James Lacy discusses concerns about California’s high-speed rail project with Fox Business’ Stuart Varney including cost overruns and tunneling through the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains.

Special Report Slams CA High-Speed Rail Progress

high speed rail trainLike a punch-drunk fighter, the High Speed Rail Authority must be reeling from the blows landed by Ralph Vartabedian’s Special Report in the Los Angeles Times asserting with expert testimony that the project is likely over cost and behind schedule. And, an even bigger blow could come from the courts removing the rail’s one steady income stream.

The Times’ article questioned many experts about the train’s progress and potential obstacles. Chief among those were the difficulties with tunneling through Southern California areas riddled with earthquake fault lines.

Cost overruns are almost assured according to the experts. “You have an 80 percent to 90 percent probability of a cost overrun on a project like this,” according to Bent Flyvbjerg, a University of Oxford business professor and a leading expert on megaproject risk, quoted in the article. “Once cost increases start, they are likely to continue,” he added.

The project, now slated to cost $68 billion, was promised to cost $33 billion, when voters approved a nearly $10 billion dollar bond in 2008. At one time, before scaled back to the $68 billion mark, projections ran close to $100 billion.

Here’s betting, if the project is completed, it will end up in that high-priced neighborhood again.

Money was supposed to come from the private sector and the federal government. While the feds sent some seed money to California for the train, future payments appear doubtful. The private sector has not rallied to the train. Many outside investors want to see government step in with greater funding.

The main revenue stream for the project, aside from the bond money, is the dedicated cap-and-trade funds authorized by the California legislature at the behest of the governor. This revenue stream will grow annually and allow, potentially, the rail authority to seek bonds, using the revenue stream as guarantee.

However, the cap-and-trade funds could be in jeopardy depending on court action.

The California Chamber of Commerce has sued asserting that the cap-and-trade funds are a tax and thus require a two-thirds vote to take effect. Since the action creating cap-and-trade did not receive a two-thirds vote from the legislature, the Chamber argues that the funds collected under cap-and-trade are illegal.

A superior court ruled against the Cal Chamber but the Chamber appealed the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal. The Chamber notes Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley called the issue of whether the levy was a tax or a regulatory fee “a close question.” The Chamber is counting on the appeals court to see the issue differently.

If so, then the revenue source for the rail would have to be reconsidered by the legislature. Given the change in public opinion on the bullet train since the 2008 bond was passed, the legislature forthrightly voting for a tax supporting the train is doubtful.

If the court rules in favor of the Chamber on the tax question, that could result in a knockout blow against the bullet train.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

CA High Speed Rail Continues to Fail in Search for Private Investment

High Speed RailAt the last High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting, on Oct. 6, a presentation was given by CEO Jeff Morales, who had been ballyhooing that 36 private party organizations had responded to the Authority’s “Request for Expressions of Interest” invitation which was sent out a couple of months ago.

Mr. Morales would have you believe that there is now intense interest on the part of private investors to become a part of the project. Private party funding was always envisioned to be a major source of capital to build the project, along with Prop. 1A bond funds, and federal government grants. According to Morales, the now approved addition of state funding from cap-and-trade funding in the amount of around $500 million per year, was going to push private investors to invest their funds, which they had been thus far, now about 8 years into the project, been unwilling to contribute.

Well the board discussion of these responses clearly did nothing to convince the board that such funding was on the horizon.

Director Rossi, made the flat-out statement, “The section that pertains to finance … there is absolutely nothing new in all the conversations we have had since day one.”

Chair Dan Richard was more reserved, saying another source of funds (around $20 billion) would be obtained from the operating profits generated from operation of the train. His optimism is pretty amazing. Operation of the many HSR around the world has shown only two systems, a line in Japan with ridership of 150 million passengers per year, and a line in France, operate without a subsidy, much less generate profits.

Richard added, that to get private funding, “two ways either you give them a guarantee or they see enough ridership history that they’re willing to take that risk and we’re not there yet and what I’m seeing from these proposals does not put us there yet in terms of a revenue concession model that adds twenty billion dollars of new money that we’ve estimated could be supported from the projected revenues of this project we’re getting in that direction but we are not there yet so I just want to be careful because when people start to sit down …”

The project has become a nightmare. Original cost estimates of $32 billion for Phase I from San Francisco to Anaheim have now grown to $68 billion, not including Anaheim at the southern end. The Authority is also proposing to share the use of CalTrain tracks in the north, rather than the needed for safety and speed, fully dedicated and grade separated tracks everywhere. The Federal government, once counted on to contribute $12 to $15 billion, after its initial grant of about $3.2 billion, has said no more funds from us.

The key to any private party investment would be a guarantee their investment would be secure, and any failure of the project would result in the state repaying them for any capital they have lost. Thankfully, when Prop. 1A was drafted, such a guarantee was forbidden.

Now being again rebuffed by the private sector, at what point is this project going be abandoned? The sooner the better.

The video of this discussion can be viewed here.

esident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project.

The article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

SoCal Backlash Against HSR Getting Heated

High Speed RailPERSPECTIVE – Farmers and family businesses in the San Joaquin Valley have been fighting the High Speed Rail Authority’s efforts to acquire property through eminent domain.

That battle will continue.

Now, local residents of communities along the foothills of the Angeles National Forest and Monument are opposing all route options for the Palmdale-Burbank leg of the expensive project. They have allies in key elected officials at all levels of government, including Congressman Adam Schiff and State Senator Carol Liu.

It is not that these two representatives are against the project as a whole, but their reticence on HSR’s route through this strategic passage could force planners into studying equally controversial routes, including one through the Tejon Pass following I-5.

The in-fighting between communities will create political havoc for the HSRA. Undoubtedly, courts will become involved.

This is actually good news.

The more obstacles the bloated project faces, the longer the delays and the more likely support and money will dry out before the state blows the full $68-billion that could be applied to far more critical capital improvements. Regardless, $68-billion is probably a lowball estimate with or without the cost of extensive tunneling through the Angeles Mountains.

Already, the prospects of long-term federal financial support are weak. While Congressman Jeff Denham’s amendment that would force the HSRA to prove they have the funds required for federal matching against the current commitment may or may not make it through the US Senate, it is evidence that future federal support will not be forthcoming.

Diversion of cap-and-trade tax revenue – an important piece of the state’s funding plan – will not be enough to complete the train in anyone’s lifetime. The only benefit will be to whisk untold thousands of commuters between the vital Bakersfield to Modesto corridor.

Don’t get me wrong – I like trains. Some of my commutes through the greater LA metro area have relied on MTA, Metrolink and Amtrak.

But as I pointed out in a widely-read article a few years ago, capital investments in intra-regional rail systems will yield a far greater reduction in road congestion and pollution.

HSR is simply Governor Brown’s vanity project, but we are the ones paying for it.

Originally published by CityWatchLA.com

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as  President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association.  Heblogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch.The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone. They should not be construed to represent the opinions of the VVHA or the residents of Valley Village, individually or as a group. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com. )

Bullet train puts California’s future in the hole

high speed rail trainThe California High Speed Rail Authority is in damage-control mode in Southern California.

Planning is underway for the Palmdale-to-Burbank section of the $68-billion bullet train, and the rail authority is required to solicit community input on proposed routes. On Monday, Team Bullet Train was at the Santa Clarita Activities Center to comply with that legal mandate.

The strain was evident. “Santa Clarita has been very effective at vocalizing its concerns to the High Speed Rail Authority,” a rail official stated with cool irritation.

“I will lead the City Council to file a lawsuit if it goes through Santa Clarita,” Councilmember TimBen Boydston said later.

Public meetings usually feature members of the audience asking questions of a panel of officials and experts. Everyone can hear the answers.

Not this time. The rail authority’s meeting took place in two large rooms, with chairs set up in one room and computer displays in the other. Two officials gave a presentation in the room with the chairs but would not take questions from the people sitting in them.

“We prefer that people ask their questions individually of the experts at the open house,” an information officer said, referring to the room where engineering and environmental consultants stood near their displays like bored vendors at a trade show.

So none of the other people attending the presentation heard the experts tell me that the automobile was “a 50-year experiment that did not work out well,” or that “Ansel Adams opposed the Golden Gate Bridge, and one day opposition to high-speed rail will seem just as ridiculous,” or that “we will learn from the Europeans” how to safely evacuate train passengers from a tunnel 60 feet underground in the event of a fire or explosion.

Actually, automobile sales have been rising since 1892, Ansel Adams was a photographer of nature’s untouched beauty, and the CHSRA’s own literature on project pros and cons lists “Fire & Life Safety” as one of the “cons” of the “HSR deep tunnel.”

In another questionable assertion, the team insisted that the bullet train is financially viable and won’t need taxpayer subsidies to operate. They offered up a stack of year-old letters from private sector companies as evidence.

But the letters are about construction loans, not financial self-sufficiency. In the very first letter a CEO writes, “we believe that long-term funding by the State is needed.”

The second letter says the project could be completed “with funds from the state” in combination with private financing, if the state provides “a multi-year source of repayment.”

The would-be private sector partners were offering to help us borrow money, which we would then give to them to build the bullet train. They were pleased that the state would be able to make loan payments using money collected from cap-and-trade fees assessed on gasoline, diesel fuel and industry.

At a news conference in May, Gov. Jerry Brown was asked about the cap-and-trade spending. A reporter wondered if he had a long-term plan, “because as pollution goes down, the revenues will go down.”

“No, not quite,” Brown answered. “Pollution — we’re not as successful with reducing carbon pollution as we are with what they call ‘criteria’ pollutants, like sulfur, carbon monoxide, NOx, things like that. Carbon pollution is still rising. Worldwide. And so one of the principal strategies is to put a price on carbon. And a price that will rise. To increase the burden of using carbon.”

The reporter asked again, “But these revenues will taper off at some point and begin to go down, yes?”

“I don’t think so,” Brown answered.

“Spending will continue,” the reporter said.

“Spending will continue,” Brown confirmed. “There will be a gradual rise. And I would imagine as, assuming climate change becomes more evident, there will be efforts to ramp up even further the price of carbon.”

The governor is widening the definition of pollution so the penalty fees can go up. The only way to maintain public support for this scheme is to incite guilt and panic with endless warnings that climate change is about to become “more evident.”

Meanwhile, production and transportation will grow more expensive, and California will lose businesses, jobs and revenue. But limits on greenhouse gas emissions can always be tightened further to generate higher penalty fees. Spending will continue.

The bullet train is worse than an unnecessary expense. Funded by debt and fines, it will be a permanent leech on California’s economic lifeblood.

Save the future. Take Southwest.

Susan Shelley is a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News.