The California Supreme Court has agreed to review the Appellate Court’s March ruling in favor of Newhall Land and Farming and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a lawsuit regarding environmental reports for a 20,000 unit development project in the Santa Clarita Valley, officials announced Saturday.
The ruling unanimously reversed Judge Ann Jones’ 2012 judgment in favor of the plaintiffs– which includes the Center for Biological Diversity and the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, or SCOPE –and allowed the Santa Clara River Alteration Permit for the project to proceed.
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“We’re really pleased,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE. “You never can predict the ultimate decision from the court, but it is likely that they were concerned about the Appellate Court’s decision or they wouldn’t have decided to hear it.”
Three areas of the decision are set to be revisited, including how impacts to endangered species and global warming were determined, officials said.
The ruling cited the plaintiff’s arguments and noted several of them lack merit.
“The appellate court’s reversal of the trial court’s decision is validation of years of hard work on environmental documents and subsequent permits,” Jordan Traverso, spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in an earlier interview. “We always work meticulously to ensure documents and permits such as these are sound. We especially do so on a project of this magnitude.”
SCOPE is one of five environmental groups that challenged the permit, which would allow for the construction of 20,000 homes in the Santa Clarita Valley near Highway 126 and the Santa Clara River, in January 2011 due to environmental concern about water supply and species protection.
“We felt that the Appellate Court decision, particularly on greenhouse gases, was just something that was not going to encourage the kind of planning that we need to change where we’re going,” Plambeck said. “We’re hoping that they (the Supreme Court) will establish a legitimate baseline for the project, send it back and require further mitigation.”
Newhall Land officials were not available for comment as of Saturday afternoon.
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