Conservationists Beat Back Attack on CEQA
By Bruce Reznik
Planning & Conservation League
Conservation groups are hailing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for preventing a last-minute attempt to gut the California Environmental Quality Act from moving forward. State Senator Michael Rubio tried to sneak drastic changes to CEQA through the legislature using the infamous “gut-and-amend” procedure.
Senator Rubio’s legislation, known as SB 317, would have made comprehensive changes to CEQA without giving the legislature – and the public – an opportunity to explore what these changes would mean to environmental quality in the state.
CEQA plays a crucial role in protecting the things that Californians value most: air and water quality, our state’s unique natural resources, and the right to meaningfully participate in land use decisions. This underhanded attempt to make radical changes to this flagship law would have undercut these core values. I applaud our legislators for recognizing that CEQA reform must be done with care, and should not be rushed.
A coalition of conservation groups, including the Planning and Conservation League, the California League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club California, and the National Resources Defense Council fought to stop the passage of SB 317. Organized labor and community groups from throughout the state also opposed the bill.
We firmly believe that CEQA has more strengths than weaknesses. But if the law is going to be reformed, it must be done through a process that invites ample public participation and includes a full legislative review. We look forward to working with legislators from both sides of the aisle to identify reforms that will address concerns about the law while maintaining its strong environmental protections.
Senators Steinberg and Rubio indicated they intend to convene a group of stakeholders, including PCL, to discuss adjustments to CEQA in September.
Bruce Reznik is the Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), who partners with hundreds of California environmental organizations to provide an effective voice in Sacramento for sound planning and responsible environmental policy at the state level.