CEQA


Legislative Session Concludes with Environmental Progress and Hurdles

By Rebecca Saltzman

California League of Conservation Voters

The first year of the 2013-14 legislative session concluded in the wee hours last Friday morning. In the final days of the session the legislature considered a number of CLCV's and the environmental community's priority bills, many of which we had been working on since the early days of the year with the help of our members and allies.

Despite Governor's Comment, CEQA Reform Moving Forward This Year

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to be dead for this legislative session. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg disagreed, declaring CEQA reform not dead yet and that it is in fact moving forward in this session:

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown said overhauling California's environmental laws was unlikely this year, the leader of the state Senate said Wednesday the effort is very much alive in the Legislature and he thinks it can be accomplished by year's end.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his bill to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is moving forward and he looks forward to talking to Brown now that the governor has returned from a trade mission in China.

"The Legislature is hard at work on CEQA reform," Steinberg told reporters. "As soon as the governor gets back, I'm going to sit down with him and go over specific provisions of the bill."

Major CEQA Reform Stalled, But Steinberg Promises Changes

By Robert Cruickshank

In the wake of Senator Michael Rubio's surprise resignation in February, major reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act appear to be stalled:

Joel Fox, chairman of the Small Business Action Committee, said, "The stars were in line, but have been knocked out of alignment."

But Rubio may have seen the writing on the wall as far back as last fall, when his last-minute effort at taking on CEQA was quashed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who insisted that any fixes to the premier environmental law wouldn't happen in the dark of night under the Capitol dome.

Unions, Environmental Groups and Tribal Leaders Join Together to Defend CEQA

By Steve Smith

Yesterday, a growing coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and tribes made clear that protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state's landmark environmental protection law, is essential to California's future.

Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to "reform" (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don't support their claims. At an event on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California's manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.

What Would Ideal CEQA Reform Look Like?

By Robert Cruickshank

There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about various proposals to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. But the most interesting proposals are those that have been around the longest.

I first delved into CEQA back in 2009 when covering an article that argued CEQA could be the biggest obstacle to California high speed rail. At the time, I touted a 2006 study by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association - SPUR - titled Fixing the California Environmental Quality Act. SPUR's approach was to follow the successful model of Oregon, where for over 40 years sprawl has been effectively if not totally limited in favor of light rail and infill development. SPUR's goal was to promote greater urban density through smart, holistic planning processes. CEQA is primarily designed as a tool to block bad projects but does nothing to encourage good projects, which is what we need.

CEQA Reform Battle Lines Getting Drawn

By Robert Cruickshank

The California Legislature is currently in a special session dealing with state implications of federal health care reform, but once the regular 2013-14 session resumes, proposals to reform the California Environmental Quality Act will quickly become a top issue.

As I argued last week, there are three main groups when it comes to CEQA reform:

  1. Businesses and developers who chafe at the added time and cost created by CEQA. Some of these folks want to build environmentally friendly stuff and just want a law that works more easily, but others want to gut it with loopholes.
  2. Transit and sustainability advocates who are fed up with CEQA's unnecessary delays, costs, and its empowering of NIMBYs - but who also generally support the law's original goals and want to see it fixed rather than undermined. I consider myself part of this camp.
  3. Conservationists and slow-growth or anti-growth folks who think CEQA works just fine as it is now.

Not every individual or group neatly fits into one of those groups, but it's a workable classification.

CEQA Reform and Transit Planning

By Robert Cruickshank

Last Saturday the Planning and Conservation League held a daylong symposium on the California Environmental Quality Act. Coming amidst a concerted effort to reform the 43-year old law, the PCL wanted to use the day as an opportunity to rally progressives and environmentalists to defend the status quo and oppose any changes to CEQA. However, the day's discussions revealed a series of divisions among the ostensible allies regarding CEQA's future. While the PCL wants to frame the debate as one of heroic environmental and community advocates resisting evil oil companies and sprawlmongers who want to destroy environmental protections, the reality is far more complex.

California's Environmental Leadership: Making Progress Amid Economic Recovery

By Ann Notthoff

What California does makes a difference. When President Obama increased national mileage standards last year, he built on the pioneering work that Senator Fran Pavley started here in 2002. We dream big, we take big steps and when it comes to environmental and public health protection, nobody does it better. With his new budget proposal today, Governor Brown has a chance to build on our state's strong record of environmental and public health protection.

CEQA Reform Takes Shape for 2013

By Robert Cruickshank

One of the top issues facing the state legislature in 2013 will be reforming the California Environmental Quality Act. It's an idea whose time has come. CEQA is popular with environmentalists, but overall it has failed to achieve its goals of producing better development and protecting the state's environment. Since CEQA's passage in 1970, sprawl has exploded, carbon emissions have soared, species have been lost, and other environmental impacts have not been averted. Rather than promote environmentally friendly planning, CEQA's primary use is for NIMBYs who wish to prevent sustainable change. At times it does serve to stop projects that are truly bad for the environment, but those are rare cases, and too many good projects are delayed or made more expensive by the flawed process. California can do better.

Farm Bureau Anti-HSR Suit Clearly Intended to Stop Project

By Robert Cruickshank

There's been a lot of discussion of the California Environmental Quality Act lately and the need to reform it. My view is that environmental regulations and reviews of projects are very important, but that it should not be used to stop good and environmentally friendly projects from going forward. If the review process is used with the intent of making a project better, that's great! But that's not what's happening with high speed rail.