California Legislature Passes a CEQA-Free Budget

The passage of the budget last Friday marks several miles stones, most notably the passage of the latest budget ever. However, this budget is also remarkable for what it lacks – significant rollbacks to major environment and public health laws.

On the heels of last year’s CEQA exemption for a massive NFL stadium in the City of Industry, the Governor proposed allowing 125 major development projects to skirt the critical enforcement provisions of CEQA. This dangerous proposal would have eliminated any means for local residents to hold developers accountable for the health and environmental impacts of their proposed projects.

In the face of these attempts to let major corporations sidestep the state’s key environmental laws, a coalition of community groups, conservation organizations, housing advocates, locally elected officials and businesses came together to prevent any other major CEQA rollback. This coalition opposed a CEQA exemption for a different NFL stadium in Los Angeles, fought to stop exemptions for big box stores like Wal-Mart and also opposed a potential exemption for the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond.

We were watching the budget closely to ensure there were no backroom deals for deep-pocked interest groups looking to skirt the law. Passage of this budget, without the Governor’s proposal and without any other major CEQA exemptions, means that this legislature has closed the flood gates they opened with the exemption for the Industry stadium. We are hopeful that now that the legislatures has rejected every proposed CEQA exemption this year, companies like Chevron, AEG, and others will follow the lead set by the City of San Francisco and instead of simply seeking exemptions, they will pull stakeholders and work through the CEQA process collaboratively.