Judge dismisses claims against TRPA
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A federal judge in California dismissed several claims yesterday made by two environmental advocacy groups that have challenged the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update.
The local Tahoe chapter of the Sierra Club and the community organization Friends of the West Shore filed a suit against TRPA back in February. The suit challenges the TRPA update on a number of grounds that have to do with its potential environmental impacts. A major claim was that the update violates California law because it gives permitting power over to local jurisdictions, which then might approve too many new development projects.
The groups also sought to have TRPA pay the costs of assembling the records and of attorney's fees that are required for the pending litigation.
Both of those claims were overturned.
Jeff Cowen, who's with TRPA, says the ruling is an initial victory in the litigation process and that most stakeholders around Lake Tahoe are behind their plans.
"The environmental community has rallied behind many of the concepts in this plan. They did come out in support of the plan, and we felt we had broad support for the plan and we do feel that this suit is really just harmful to Lake Tahoe's environment."
The judge ordered the two groups to pay TRPA for the legal costs, which Cowen says is only fair to taxpayers. If they do not pay the fees within fifteen days, the rest of the suit could be dropped. While the ruling acknowledges the groups have an interest in the area, it says delegating some responsibility to local agencies does not in itself increase development or harm.
But David von Seggern, who's the Chair of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, says many people don't realize how this update could change the character of the lake.
"We can't trust the local governments to hold the line on development. The revised plan has some good elements, has some promising elements, but we don't think the way it will play out will actually protect the Lake in the long run."
Von Segerren says the ruling is a major setback and that they're having internal discussions on whether to go forward with the suit.