California Economic Summit calls for review of CEQA Guidelines

150 150 John Guenther

Construction of the Folsom Dam Auxiliary Spillway. (Photo Credit: Todd Plain/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

This was originally posted on the California Economic Summit website

Leaders of five Summit action teams sent a letter to the governor yesterday urging the Administration to complete a peer review of a scheduled update to CEQA’s administrative regulations—known as the CEQA Guidelines—before they are made public later this year. The letter also urged the Administration to include in the process state agencies that are obligated to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act for critical infrastructure, renewable energy, economic development, and regulatory activities.

“We believe that experienced CEQA practitioners…can efficiently advise the Administration, and OPR, on the extent to which the proposed updates to the Guidelines would achieve the Administration’s policy objectives to improve CEQA,” the Summit letter said. “We believe these practitioners can [also] identify the types of ambiguous or impractical Guideline provisions that are likely to result in more lawsuits and litigation uncertainty.”

As part of a broader plan aimed at laying a foundation for California’s long-term prosperity, the Summit has supported the Administration’s efforts to bring more accountability, transparency, consistency, and timelineness to a range of regulatory processes impacting the state’s economy. CEQA, in particular, has become a focus of the Summit’s Regulations action team, which has formed a group of experts dedicated to exploring administrative options for improving the state’s 40-year-old environmental law. These include updating the CEQA Guidelines, a set of regulations that explain and interpret the law for both the general public and the public agencies that administer CEQA.

Earlier this year, this Summit team offered a detailed analysis of a preliminary evaluation of the CEQA Guidelines conducted by the Office of Planning & Research (OPR)—a process set in motion by a piece of legislation, SB 743, signed into law in 2013. In that letter, the Summit applauded the Administration’s commitment to curtail CEQA litigation abuse, more effectively integrate compliance with California’s many other environmental laws into CEQA practice, and to reduce the time, cost, and uncertainties that have undermined effective CEQA implementation. The Summit identified several areas where OPR could advance these goals.

Involving public agencies in CEQA guidelines

In the letter delivered to the governor yesterday, Summit leaders expressed their appreciation for these significant efforts, which are reportedly nearing completion. Given the important role the Guidelines will play in interpretations of CEQA for years to come, the leaders of five Summit action teams—Regulations, Infrastructure, Housing, Manufacturing, and Capital—also requested that the Administration complete a peer review of the OPR proposal prior to public release.

The letter calls for this peer review to include state agencies obligated to comply with CEQA, along with agencies such as the State Department of Housing and Community Development that have policy and regulatory experience and expertise:

“All CEQA lawsuits target public agencies, and public agencies bear the highest burden of CEQA’s costs, delays, and uncertainties,” the Summit letter said. “Updating the CEQA Guidelines can either increase this burden—or provide practical and clear direction on lawful compliance practices that reduce it. We urge the Administration to reach beyond OPR to other CEQA practitioners in key state agencies—and to complete this interagency peer review process, prior to releasing proposed revisions to the Guidelines.”

The letter was signed by the following Summit leaders:

  • Bill Allen – Member, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; President & CEO, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation
  • Efrem Bycer – Manager, Economic Development, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation
  • Cathy Creswell – Co-Lead, Housing Action Team; Former Acting Director, California Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Lucy Dunn – Member, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; President & CEO, Orange County Business Council
  • David Flaks – Chief Operating Officer, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
  • Steve Frisch – Member, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; President, Sierra Business Council
  • Paul Granillo – Co-Chair, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; President and CEO, Inland Empire Economic Partnership
  • Quay Hays –  Co-Lead, Regulations Action Team; CEO, Growing Holdings, LLC
  • Chris Harrington – Co-Lead, Advancing Manufacturing Action Team; Executive Director, Center for a New California
  • Greg Wendt – Co-Lead, Capital Action Team; Senior Wealth Advisor, StakeHolders Capital
  • Scott Kirk – Sonoma County Innovation Action Council
  • Lenny Mendonca – Member, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; Co-Chair, California Forward Leadership Council
  • Cynthia Murray – President & CEO, North Bay Leadership Council
  • Eloy Oakley – Co-Chair, California Economic Summit Steering Committee; Member, California Forward Leadership Council; Superintendent-President, Long Beach City College
  • Mark Pisano – Co-Lead, Infrastructure Action Team; Senior Fellow, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
  • David Smith – Co-Lead, Housing Action Team; Partner, Stice & Block, LLP
  • Nick Warshaw – UCLA Law

John Guenther

All stories by: John Guenther