As the July Legislative recess begins, PCL is proud to report the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has survived the legislative session, coming out relatively unscathed. This is somewhat surprising since more than 20 bills that sought to streamline, exempt or otherwise weaken California’s preeminent environmental law were introduced for projects small, large and larger (e.g., High Speed Rail) during the Legislative session. Because of opposition from the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), other environmental groups, and many Legislative insiders, the vast majority of these bills have either been defeated or amended significantly to limit their long-term effect on CEQA.
Thanks, especially, goes to Legislative Leadership – Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Speaker of the Assembly Pérez. Throughout the session, Legislative Leadership maintained their position that changes made to CEQA last year should be assessed before pursuing additional amendments this session. PCL would also like to thank all those in the Legislature who stood strong for the importance of CEQA in protecting our lands, air, waters and communities.
Of course, just because CEQA made it through this session fairly intact (thus far at least) does not mean that we have been 100% successful in our efforts to protect CEQA, or that additional threats don’t remain. For instance, AB 1073, which provides a CEQA exemption for the large-scale and highly-contentious Calico solar project, has already been signed into law. There also remain several CEQA-related bills which the Legislature will take up upon their return in August. Additionally, there is always the risk that ‘gut-and-amend’ CEQA legislation could be introduced in the waning days of the session (which concludes August 31), as was done last year. In fact, there are rumblings at least one bill that aims to provide CEQA exemptions or streamlining for some of California’s largest infrastructure projects – including the proposed Delta conveyance – will be introduced shortly after the Legislature reconvenes on August 6. PCL will be there to keep you informed if and when such a threat arises, and, of course, to fight for the integrity of CEQA.