At midnight September 1st the gavel came down and the 2009-2010 legislative session came to a close. While not all bills had the outcome we would have liked, we can happily say that thanks to the hard work of community groups around the state, we have made it through the year without a single bill exempting a project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) from passing. This is a huge victory that could not have been achieved without the effort of a coalition over 150 (and growing!) environmental and justice groups, housing advocates, businesses and community leaders.
Our last triumph came only hours before the legislature adjourned, when Assembly Bill 1581 (Torres) was sent to the inactive file thanks to a motion by Senator Romero. This bill was the last CEQA exemption challenge of the legislative year and thanks to the rallying effort, this “Wal-Mart Bill” as it is commonly referred, died when session ended. This bill would have allowed big box stores to move into a vacant storefront and begin operating without any form of review detailing the environmental implications arising from the stores presence – like increased traffic and diesel outputs from delivery trucks.
Though great strides have been made to halt what was started last year when the City of Industry was granted a CEQA exemption for their yet-to-be constructed football stadium, the fight is not entirely over yet. The voice of this massive coalition was heard loud and clear this legislative session, and we need to use the momentum gained this session to get us through the last hurdle we face this year – the budget. California currently does not have a budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1st, and it has been widely rumored that Chevron will make their last ditch effort to be granted an exemption to their Richmond refinery by hitching itself to the budget in a trailer bill. This is an exemption we have opposed and fought since the beginning and we will continue to be vigilant.