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FREMONT - Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he is not abandoning a proposal to insulate California's high-speed rail project from environmental lawsuits, suggesting he was only delaying the legislation until sometime after the Legislature considers funding for the project.

The Brown administration told environmentalists on Wednesday it was backing off a proposal to limit the circumstances in which a court could block construction of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act. Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said at the time that the administration suggested it could revisit the proposal later.

The Democratic governor is seeking legislative approval, likely next week, to start construction of the $68 billion project.

Asked about his proposal to protect the project from environmental lawsuits, Brown said, "I haven't abandoned that at this point ... I think it's a question of when we push and when we don't."

Brown, in Fremont for an event at car maker Tesla Motors, said his goal is to "do the right thing, but do it in a very efficient manner." He said, "We're going to do whatever it takes."

Brown's remarks were his first since announcing a budget deal with legislative Democrats on Thursday. He said staffers are still laboring on the deal's finer points.

"I spent a few hours on the telephone coming down," Brown said. "The nits and nats and details are being turned over as we speak, so staff is working in Sacramento, executive and legislative branch, so they're still struggling."

He said of the deal's prospects ahead of a vote in the Legislature next week, "I'm very optimistic."


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