Rail hearing in San Francisco focuses on jurisdiction of Appeals CourtUPDATED 7:59 PM HST Aug 15, 2013Video Transcript
big local stories of the day. And it doesn't get any bigger than Honolulu's $5-point-3 billion dollar rail project. Today, it was all about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which must decide if the city followed federal environmental law. KITV4's Andrew Pereira joins us with more. Paula, Yunji... today's hearing in San Francisco focused on whether the appeals court even has jurisdiction... and whether the city fast tracked the project to reach a point of no return. Federal law requires large public works projects to study all possible alternatives. In the case of rail, opponents say the project's environmental impact statement did not do what's required. BEN CAYETANO: "THE FAILURE TO CONSIDER BRT AND MANAGED LANES TO ME WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS BECAUSE NOWHERE IN THE EIS IS THERE A REASONABLE EXPLANATION AS TO WHY THESE THINGS WEREN'T CONSIDERED." But in Thursday's hearing before a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a city attorney argued heavy rail was a political decision after all other options were carefully studied. ROBERT THORNTON: "IT WAS A WELL REASONED DECISION, A WELL REASONED POLICY CHOICE. THEY COMPLIED WITH THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT FOR AN EXHAUSTIVE REVIEW OF MULTIPLE ALTERNATIVES." Rail opponents did appear to gain some traction by arguing the city was trying to reach a point of no return by issuing contracts and beginning construction. JUDGE ANDREW HURWITZ: "ARE YOU GOING TO FORGO THAT ARGUMENT LATER DOWN THE ROAD OR ARE YOU RESERVING THE ABILITY TO SAY LATER DOWN THE ROAD, 'WELL, IN THE MEANTIME WE BUILT SO MUCH OF THIS THAT THERE IS NO REASONABLY PRUDENT ALTERNATIVE." ROBERT THORNTON: "I CAN'T SAY AT THIS POINT THAT WE'D RULE ANY ARGUMENT OFF THE TABLE IN AN EQUITABLE CONSIDERATION, SO IT'S POSSIBLE WE WOULD." But the city and transit officials also had a takeaway to cheer about. The three judges appeared to give weight to the argument the appellate court does NOT have jurisdiction. That's because the federal court in Honolulu under Judge A. Wallace Tashima must still decide if rail will have significant impacts on Mother Waldron Park and historical properties in downtown Honolulu. Tashima must also decide if a Beretania Street tunnel that bypasses the waterfront is a better option. DAN GRABAUSKAS: "WE BELIEVE THAT IF IT'S KICKED BACK TO HIM WITH SORT OF KEEPING IT ON THOSE THREE AREAS, THAT THAT'S A GOOD SIGN THAT WE'RE HEADED TOWARD ITS CONCLUSION." The 9th Circuit could issue its ruling within days or weeks. Back to you.