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.

Restore the Delta Opposes Both Twin and Single Tunnel Proposals

By Dan Bacher

Restore the Delta (RTD) opposes both Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two peripheral tunnels and a separate proposal to build a single peripheral tunnel backed by several environmental NGOs, business groups and water agencies, according to RTD's executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.

"We oppose the rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

She said Governor Brown's Peripheral Tunnel proposal is "fatally flawed."

Delta Whopper: How Big Water Spins the Science on Water Policy

By Zeke Grader

Fishermen are my constituents - I work with them every day. And when you hang around fishermen, you hear a lot of fish stories. Sometimes, of course, you hear some real whoppers, yarns that stretch the credulity of even the most trusting soul. But nothing I've heard on the docks can match the whoppers that originate from Sacramento.

Perhaps the most egregious falsehood comes courtesy of Big Water - the state's largest water districts and agencies, including Kern County, the Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

California Farmers Alarmed as Energy Companies Outbid Ag Water Districts for Resource

By Dan Aiello

There's a new water interest bidding for California's limited water supplies, and the managers of California's historic agriculture-centric water districts in the Central Valley aren't smiling.

With a finite supply of water, Sacramento may have to choose between expanding food production or fracking wells and oil and natural gas production. Either option will likely lead to increases in food or energy costs for consumers.

Out-of-state, (primarily Texas-headquartered) energy companies with deep pockets from record profits and the strongest lobby in Sacramento are anxious to extract as much severance tax-free California oil from the ground as quickly as possible.

Lawsuit Filed Against Fracking as Oil Lobbyist Says It's "Safe"

By Dan Bacher

As a lawsuit was filed to stop unregulated fracking in California, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, claimed that fracking causes no environmental harm in the state.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a rapidly spreading, environmentally destructive new method of oil and gas extraction that is drawing growing opposition throughout the state by environmentalists, fishermen, tribal members, family farmers and consumer advocates.

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.

Fracking Regulations Only Exxon Could Love

By Judy Dugan

California's oil and gas industry regulators are about to write final state regulations on the controversial practice of fracking natural gas and oil wells in the state. Don't expect any backbone, however, from the state Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Regulation. So far, the draft proposals boil down to "trust the oil industry."

Studies Find California "Fracking" Wells May Kill Livestock, Family Pets

By Dan Aiello

As the deadline for public comment on California Governor Jerry Brown, Jr.'s proposed new regulations on fracking are set to close in just seven days, reports are surfacing of the potential impact on the state's agriculture, farm animals and family pets from this controversial method of oil extraction.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking," is an oil extraction process used on shale, depleted wells and tar-like "heavy" oil deposits. The production process involves the injection of steam, water, sand and rocket propellant into the ground to bubble to the surface the oil reserves. It has been known to make fertile California farmland barren and contaminate groundwater tables.

California DOGGR Rule Making Process Deadline Approaches

By Dan Aiello

Environmentalists in California worry the public is not fully aware of the potential harm Governor Edmund G. 'Jerry' Brown, Jr.'s proposed hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking' oil extraction regulations could do to the state's regional water tables and fertile California farmland in the Central Valley counties of Kings, Kern, Maricopa as well as those in which the Monterey Shale Deposits are located some 11,000 feet below the surface.

Oh What Fun It is to Kill Our Fellow Creatures

By Dick Meister

"When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man, we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of God, we call him a sportsman." - Joseph Wood Krutch

In the matter of gun control, our main concern is rightly for the human victims of mass shootings. But what of the other defenseless animals that die at the hands of humans?

Of course it's tragic that so many young people and others have been slain by wielders of military-style assault weapons. And it's certain that such weapons should be limited to military uses and recreational target shooting.

But what of the hunting rifles that are cited as legitimate simply because they are not rapid-fire weapons, the guns that are used by hunters to kill so many of our fellow beings in the name of sport?