The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was hailed to be landmark environmental protection legislation when it was passed in 1970.
Unfortunately, its worthy purpose has been distortedby competing developers, special interests and neighborhood groups that block development for personal, economic and political gain. It has even become an obstacle to smart growth legislation, such as 2008’s groundbreaking transit-oriented development legislation, SB 375 (Steinberg) and 2006’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions strategy, AB 32 (Pavley).
The fact is CEQA needs to be modernized.
And this is the year. Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez have all placed CEQA reform at the top of their priorities for the 2013 state legislative session.
In light of this, VICA developed a list of eight common sense reforms:
1. Simplify the approval process for projects that will spur and sustain California’s economy.
2. Grant expedited processing to projects designed to comply with existing environmental regulations.
3. Ensure once a project is entitled that it is subject only to the laws in effect on the date of entitlement.
4. Develop adequate definitions for vague terminology in CEQA that lawmakers will incorporate into CEQA through legislation.
5. Require all legal challenges to environmental analyses to pass the substantial evidence test, in order to help prevent frivolous lawsuits.
6. Require plaintiffs to prove substantial environmental concern over economic gain in the project’s stall or failure.
7. Require the petitioner to pay the lead agency for preparation of the administrative record upon submission of challenge.
8. Make petitioners liable for frivolous and meritless lawsuits by requiring the applicant plaintiffs, if unsuccessful, to compensate lead agency defendants.
In the past two years, the Legislature has enacted the foundation to realize these recommendations. However, we still have significant work to do.
Our leaders must realize that business holds the key to the development and job creation that will ultimately spur California toward a balanced approach of economic stability and environmental sustainability. Government’s job is to clear obstacles and create a supportive environment to let business do what it does best.
VICA asks its members to contact their state representatives and ask them to introduce CEQA reform legislation and/or support these concepts.
Click here to find your State Assemblymember and Senator.
Click here for more information about the gaps in CEQA and how these proposals will address these issues.