CEQA: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow?

JANUARY 12, 2013

More than 200 participants packed into King Hall at the UC Davis School of Law to discuss the past, present and future of the California Environmental Quality Act. The symposium started with a thought-provoking plenary panel headlined by State Senators Michael Rubio and Noreen Evans as well as speakers from the infill and environmental justice community. The day-long event included 10 additional sessions focused on exploring where the California Environmental Quality Act was helping to ensure sustainable land-use, transportation, water and energy planning, while exploring where the law could be improved. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg gave the luncheon keynote address, discussing his perspective on the future of CEQA. Senator Evans and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment received awards for their work to defend and enforce CEQA.

PCL will now take the information gathered at the symposium to help develop a promote a positive CEQA reform agenda that will strengthen the law’s ability to promote strong environmental outcomes while continuing to empower communities to have a meaningful say in the decisions that impact them.

A huge thanks to the UC Davis School of Law, all of our event sponsors highlighted by lead sponsor Save Mount Diablo, all the speakers and legislators who helped make this dialogue so meaningful, and to everyone who joined us to discuss this subject that is so critical to California’s future!


2013 symposium logoCalifornia has been a leader in protecting the environment through a host of innovative and exceptional laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and the Global Warming Solutions Act. To ensure California continues its forward thinking, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL) and the PCL Foundation had an excellent line up of creative and expert speakers for its Environmental Legislative Symposium.

For more than forty years, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has served as the state’s foundational environmental and community protection law. By requiring state and local agencies to assess, disclose and minimize/mitigate environmental impacts of proposed projects, CEQA is California’s environmental ‘bill of rights’ that empowers communities to have a say in the decisions that impact them most directly.

Fueled by California’s economic crisis, however, CEQA was in 2013 facing unprecedented attacks — including proposed legislation in 2012 that would have rendered the law almost meaningless. CEQA was even facing criticism from groups that had traditionally aligned with environmental interests, such as infill proponents. With the Governor and Legislative leadership exploring major CEQA reform, 2013 was shaping up to be a cross-roads for California’s most important environmental law. With that backdrop, PCL and PCL Foundation decided to do something different with this year’s Symposium — namely, to have a more targeted and intimate event aimed at bringing together California’s environmental, community, business, agencies and elected leaders to explore what was next for California’s most important environmental law.

The Planning and Conservation League/PCL Foundation’s 2013 Environmental Symposium worked to:

  • Highlight CEQA’s strengths and successes in recent years
  • Separate fact from fiction about CEQA
  • Investigate potential changes to the law to make it an even more effective tool to safeguard our lands, air, waters and communities
  • Identify alternative approaches to promote more sustainable land-use, transportation, water and energy projects
  • Explore how we can mobilize around a shared vision for California’s environmental future

PCL/PCL Foundation offered a range of sessions related to how CEQA interacts with other environmental laws and policies to create a more sustainable California. In addition to offering legal credit (CLE) for attorneys for several panels we also offer certification maintenance credit (AICP) for planners.

Symposium Materials