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Controversy Over Agency's Suit Against Toll Road Foes

August 02, 1992

The San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) has filed suit in federal court against Laguna Greenbelt, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, Stop Polluting Our Newport and Save Our San Juan ("Tollway Agency Sues Environmentalists," July 14). This action is outrageous, is intimidation of freedom of speech and, if allowed to stand, will have a chilling effect on organizations' and concerned citizens' willingness to speak out on issues regarding governmental actions.

The TCA says that its suit is designed only to have the federal court settle the issue of the adequacy of the environmental impact statement sooner, rather than wait until later, when the environmental groups will sue the TCA. The environmental groups are, of course, presently suing the TCA in state court on the adequacy of the environmental impact report for the San Joaquin Hills toll road. To have to pursue two suits simultaneously will impose an onerous financial burden on the environmental groups, and it is probably the TCA's strategy to try to crush these nonprofit organizations financially.

Regardless of the merits of the toll road, this suit by the government against its citizens' grass-roots organizations is most serious. The only remedy that we have to protect the environment is to speak out at public hearings when we are concerned that the governmental agency is not complying with environmental laws. Those laws provide that if the government ignores this information and certifies a deficient EIR or EIS, the remedy is for the citizens to file a lawsuit. It is the height of perverting this process for the government to sue the concerned citizens' groups.

GENE FELDER, Laguna Beach

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