CEQA modernization debate begins to intensify

150 150 Ed Coghlan

CEQA in the 21st Century — a series of news stories and individual perspectives designed to educate and spark dialogue on CEQA as the California Legislature revisits the role the environmental law will play in the future of our economy.

The discussion over whether to change the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) intensified over the weekend in Sacramento. CEQA has been the foundation of California environmental law for 42 years. It looks as if it is going to be revisited this year by the California Legislature.

The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) held its annual Environmental Legislative Symposium and Awards Luncheon at the UC Davis Law School on Saturday and drew an overflow crowd. The PCL helped pass the law in 1970 and has campaigned to defend CEQA.

The Sacramento Bee published an interesting debate over the weekend between two prominent Californians about whether CEQA needs to be updated at all. Democratic State Senator Michael Rubio from East Bakersfield heads the Senate Committee that will consider bills that would change it.

Thomas Adams, who is former President of the California League of Conservation Voters and a CEQA attorney, says the law is working fine and the state should not undermine the protections that have helped keep California’s environment clean. 

At the PCL meeting, there were numerous panels on the history, the current state and the future of the law. We had a camera crew there and you’ll be seeing and hearing some different perspectives on CEQA in the coming weeks.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was the luncheon speaker. Steinberg wanted to calm the fears of this mostly pro-CEQA audience by reminding them that there are many different voices and different regions impacted the law.

The appointment of Senator Rubio to head the Senate Environmental Quality Committee made some of Steinberg’s environmental supporters a bit nervous, he acknowledged, but when he appointed the rest of the Committee last week, the list included senators who are great friends of the environmental movement. Rubio, by the way, was one of the opening speakers at the PCL event on Saturday. 

Steinberg indicated he was hopeful that this effort to update CEQA would result in what he called a “peace treaty” which would then leave CEQA alone for many years. 

The California Economic Summit called for a discussion of CEQA modernization as one its seven Signature Initiatives and has been working with people of varying points of view to help promote a timely dialogue that is plainly underway in California. Summit participants agreed that the original intent of the law should be protected but the abuse of CEQA lawsuits for “non-environmental” purposes should be addressed.


Ed Coghlan

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