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Toll Road Backers Cloud David, Goliath Roles

August 23, 1992

Wait just a minute. Michael Stockstill of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (Letters, Aug. 2) claims that the environmental groups being sued by his agency are fair game because they are better organized and adept at fighting than "a few neighbors who meet in someone's family room" and because they have drawn the support of national environmental organizations.

If anyone feels sorry for the developers and the agencies poised to open up the South County for development, he should take note of the power tactics the environmental groups face.

To get their roads built and their permits through for the South County, the developers have managed a coast-to-coast effort of campaign contributions, pressure and lobbying to acquire funds and to weaken environmental protection laws. Their influence reached:

* Several Orange County city governments, which voted to sue their own citizen groups fighting the toll roads.

* The County Board of Supervisors, which accepted the environmental impact report for the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor. Although the three South County toll roads were studied and planned together to create a unified traffic-circulation plan, the EIR neglected to consider what the cumulative traffic and air pollution problems would be.

* Gov. Pete Wilson and the state Fish and Game Commission. A year ago Wilson sent a representative to a state Fish and Game Commission hearing to argue against listing the California gnatcatcher as an endangered species candidate. Developers fear the listing would limit their buildable land and the toll roads that much South County building is contingent upon.

* The U.S. House of Representatives, which voted to make Orange County an exception to the nationwide law denying federal funding for roads that intrude into public parks. The whole United States may get to fund the toll roads the developers want.

* President Bush, who chose developer Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., to head his reelection campaign here. In Newport Beach recently, Bush advocated weakening environmental protection laws.

Heavy developer contributions have supported the campaigns of city council members, the Board of Supervisors, Gov. Wilson, President Bush, and God-knows-who in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Good luck to those environmental groups willing to take on one of the world's best-run special-interest machines.


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