The End-of-Session Dust Settles: More Light Shines on CEQA Streamlining Flaws

It has been just over a week since the 2011 Legislative Session came to a close, and more and more critics are coming forth to voice their skepticism on the realistic implementation of Senate Bill 292 (Padilla) and Assembly Bill 900 (Buchanan). These bills are designed to streamline litigation brought under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), primarily by skipping Superior Court review and expediting the timeline for the litigation process at Appellate Court (it is important to note, though, that the bills do take different approaches to these streamlining measures).

As has been pointed out in recent articles in the Los Angeles Times  and LA Weekly, an increasing chorus of attorneys, scientists, environmentalists and good-government advocates are calling out the flaws in these two bills, passed by the Legislature on its last day of session. SB 292, which provides judicial streamlining for AEG’s proposed downtown Los Angles football stadium in exchange for certain environmental commitments, has come under fire for the lack of legal enforceability of the greening measures as well as whether these commitments – such as carbon neutrality – are even realistic to begin with. AB 900, the broader of the two bills, will allow the Governor to hand pick as many projects as he deems appropriate for the expedited judicial review process.

In addition to our concerns with these bills being introduced so late in session, as to preclude meaningful public participation, the streamlining measures could undermine the ability of community groups to challenge projects that impact them most directly. These bills could also potentially be challenged on constitutional grounds, ironically raising the possibility that SB 292 and AB 900 will actually result in a longer legal process than would have resulted absent the legislation.  

Now it is up to Governor Brown to decide by October 9th whether or not to sign these bills into law. If you would like to contact the Governor to voice your opposition to the CEQA streamlining, please call (916.445.2841), fax (916. 558.3160) or e-mail.