The California High-Speed Rail Authority in the US has received federal approval to assume environmental review responsibilities.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded the responsibility to conduct such reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal environmental laws.

The move will enable the California High-Speed Rail Authority to advance with pending environmental reviews for the first phase of the high-speed rail programme from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area.

Furthermore, it will enable the state agency to continue construction works in the Central Valley and finalise rail routes while maintaining federally-mandated environmental protections.

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly said: “This action is an important milestone for the high-speed rail programme.

“This allows the Authority to complete the environmental review process more efficiently, while still maintaining the same level of review with multiple opportunities for public input and collaboration.

“We’ve lost valuable time waiting with the FRA’s disengagement, so I am very thankful for this action, and I am hopeful this step is the beginning of a more collaborative and cooperative relationship prospectively.”

The move comes after the federal administration cancelled $929m of funding for the state’s high rail project in May.

Subsequently, California filed a lawsuit against the decision.

California’s high-speed rail project, which is scheduled to connect San Francisco with Los Angeles, has been the source of major contention between the state and federal governments this year.

The dispute started after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans to scale back the high-speed rail project due to spiralling costs in February.