On Wednesday, dozens of people packed a hearing room at the State Capitol to speak out against one of this year’s most dangerous bills, SBx8 42 (Correa and Cogdill). The measure – backed by industry groups and Governor Schwarzenegger – would allow the administration to grant 125 handpicked projects a free pass from the enforcement provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act. This would fundamentally undermine the ability of communities to participate in decisions that determine how their neighborhoods grow and leave well-connected developers unaccountable for air pollution, traffic congestion, and other impacts of poorly-planned projects.
While the proponents of the bill attempted to paint their measure as a job creator, the committee members and representatives from local and statewide environmental groups, labor organizations, consumer advocates, health professionals, planners, and others didn’t buy it. They noted that projects given full exemptions from the Environmental Quality Act last year still have not created a single job, and pointed to hundreds of projects that could put people to work now – without the need to sacrifice environmental and public health protections. When Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) asked for real evidence that the Environmental Quality Act was slowing job growth, the bill’s backers were unable to offer up any credible examples.
As it became clear that the committee would not allow the Administration and Big Business to gut our hard-fought environmental protections, the bill’s authors choose to not bring the bill up for a vote.
Wednesday’s hearing demonstrated three things: First, Californians will fight hard to make sure our state’s premier environmental and public health law retains its essential enforcement provisions. Second, industry groups will use any excuse to try to weaken these safeguards; and they have no intention of giving up now. Third, and most important, when lawmakers get real facts in a public setting, they are willing to reject ideological attacks on California’s environment and communities.