Business Retention and Attraction Strategies: Bringing CEQA into the 21st Century
THE ISSUE: BRINGING CEQA INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), adopted 40 years ago, provides a formal process for state agencies and local governments to evaluate and mitigate environmental impacts that may occur as a result of approval of a particular development. CEQA was intended to foster public feedback and to provide the local lead agency (usually the city or county) with the information needed to determine if a project should be approved and what level of environmental mitigation should be required. Today, CEQA applies to all public and private development projects, which includes schools, public works, transit, housing, businesses, renewable energy and more.
Protecting our environment and ensuring the economic well-being of Californians are co-equal goals, and for four decades CEQA has been an important tool to help get us there. However, unintended consequences of the Act, not contemplated four decades ago, have impeded the ability to reach those goals. Today, there is growing concern that groups and individuals can easily distort the act to suit their own agenda and as a result, CEQA is being abused for non-environmental purposes. Case studies show that too often, CEQA lawsuits seek to extract concessions or settlements not related to the environment, or are being filed by local NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) groups who simply oppose projects for non-environmental reasons. Today, CEQA lawsuits and even just the threat of litigation can be used to kill off or significantly delay both good projects and bad. Even notable California entities like Lucas Films, Netflix, and the Hollywood Bowl have fallen victim to CEQA abuse.
Because of this, there is broad recognition that CEQA needs meaningful modernization and that it is this lack of updating and reform that has left CEQA susceptible to abuse. For example, in the 40 years since CEQA was passed, more than 120 new laws and regulations have been passed at the local, state and federal levels protecting our environment and public health. Today, all California projects must adhere to some of the strongest environmental protections in the world. However, because CEQA has not been updated to take these new environmental laws into account, lead agencies and project proponents face duplicative and overlapping processes, standards, and mitigation requirements which can result in confusion and lengthy delays. Taking advantage of this, self-interest adversaries are abusing CEQA to block environmentally desirable projects – infill housing, renewable energy and transit oriented projects – and to halt vital community renewal and job-creation projects that are desperately needed.
While there have been past efforts at CEQA reform, most of these have ultimately resulted in various CEQA exemptions. Although helpful, these exemptions tend to work around the problems in CEQA without fixing them. Conversely, CEQA Modernization is focused on updating this 40 year old law so that abuses are eliminated. This approach will require more than just exemptions; it will require making necessary and careful changes in CEQA standards and practices – which is something the legislature, the governor, and key stakeholders seem willing to address in 2013
The Leadership Council supports meaningful California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Modernization efforts. While CEQA’s original intent – environmental protection – must remain intact, now is the time to end reckless abuses of this important law; abuses that are threatening California’s economic vitality, costing jobs, and are wasting valuable taxpayer dollars.
To end these abuses, the Leadership Council supports modernizing CEQA with smart reforms such as requiring petitioners to disclose their economic interests, adding certainty to the CEQA timeline, avoiding duplicative CEQA reviews, lessening opportunities for litigation and delay, and updating CEQA so that it better integrates and coordinates numerous environmental protection mandates.
News, Updates and Background:
SCLC Media Coverage
Viewpoints: Preserve CEQA’s Goals, End its Abuses
CEQA Modernization – The End or Just the Beginning?
Keep California Green and Golden with CEQA Reforms
Relevant News and Articles
Opinion: Support Governor’s Push to Modernize CEQA
Greenhut: Even Democrats Pushing for Regulatory Reform
Harman: Fight Looms Over Updating CEQA
Both Sides Must Negotiate Environmental Reforms
CEQA Reform Must be Top Priority for Legislature in 2013
Steinberg Sets CEQA Reform as Agenda Priority
Critics Say California Law Hurts Effort to Add Jobs
Our View: CEQA needs to be addressed
CEQA Overhaul Amended Into Senate Bill
Is CEQA Reform Possible?
Finally, Momentum to Reform Regulations, Help Economy
Environmentalists, Unions Fear Last-Minute CEQA Changes
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