It's now official - the Sierra Club of California has voted to endorse Proposition 1A. We all knew that high speed rail would provide a major boost to California's efforts to produce environmentally friendly, sustainable, and global warming-fighting policies, and the Sierra Club's endorsement will help communicate that clearly to voters. From their Yes on 1A statement (.doc file) authored by Stuart Cohen of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition:
Sierra Club supports Proposition 1A, which would provide $9.95 billion dollars to catalyze the development of the 800 mile High-Speed Rail (HSR) system, and to make improvements to existing rail networks. Building HSR in California will reinforce our cities as the hubs of our economies, promote sustainable land use, significantly reduce global warming pollution, and get commuters off congested roads and out of crowded airports. While it is an extremely expensive project, adding the same capacity by expanding highways and airports would cost at least twice as much.
The statement also mentioned safeguards that the Sierra Club helped include in AB 3034, including the elimination of a Los Banos station and protection of important ecological areas. It also mentions the cost of doing nothing - $20 billion to bring Highway 99 to interstate standards, and far larger sums for airport expansion. They also noted approvingly that the Authority approved the goal of powering the trains with 100% renewable energy, ensuring that we get maximum carbon reduction benefits from the project and spurring development of new renewables sources.
A small number of activists in Northern California have been trying to claim that high speed rail is somehow environmentally damaging or won't bring the promised benefits. The Sierra Club of California has resoundingly rejected those arguments by backing Prop 1A - with nearly unanimous support from those who cast votes on the endorsement.
Over the last few months the urgency behind global warming action seems to have eased a bit as economic and energy concerns have dominated the public mind. But all three - environment, economy, energy - are fundamentally linked. To grow the economy and provide affordable, reliable energy we need to reduce carbon emissions and build sustainable, green infrastructure in our state.
The Sierra Club has demonstrated that it understands the importance of what Van Jones called moving "from opposition to proposition" with their endorsement of Prop 1A. It will be a pleasure to campaign for high speed rail alongside their membership.