Land Use

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."

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.

Doing More with Less: Biofuels and Rural Economic Development

By Mary Solecki

As a small town Midwesterner, I know that farming opportunities are crucial for healthy communities in a large part of the country. My grandmother would remind me, as yours probably did too, "Waste not, want not." Our population is rising, so we have to find a way to do more with less: feed more people, make finite resources stretch.

And I think that is what's at the heart of the biofuels movement: doing more with less. How can we deliver our energy needs from domestic sources and still deliver the food we all need? Well, as my grandmother pinpointed so many years ago, the answer lies in the waste.

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."

How Economists Routinely Get It Wrong on High Speed Rail

By Robert Cruickshank

The main purpose of any transportation project is to help people get to where they want to go. Cost should be a subsidiary factor in the planning of any transportation project. Unfortunately, in the 30 years since right-wing ideology became politically ascendant, keeping costs down so that rich people didn't have to pay higher taxes started taking precedence over building effective transportation projects. This may have been tenable as long as oil prices remained low. But once prices began rising again, it was clear that building electric passenger trains was a top priority for modern societies.

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.