Conversation about CEQA in the 21st century

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 first California Economic Summit, held last May in Santa Clara, identified the modernization of CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) as one of the seven signature initiatives needed to improve the state’s ability to create jobs and to compete more effectively in today’s global economy. 

CEQA, a California law passed in 1970 and amended several times since, is complex, controversial and polarizing. Yet it was identified at each of fourteen regional economic forums held around the state last year as a barrier to economic growth in its current state.

The discussion has been building up to a critical moment as the Legislature is expected to take up CEQA reform this year. Gov. Jerry Brown marked it as a priority, calling CEQA reform “the Lord’s work” and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg forewarned, “We’re going to take it on and we’re going to take it on in a big way.”

As a result, at we are introducing a series called CEQA in the 21st Century — 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.

CEQA is, quite simply, a lightning rod in the tension that has long existed between environmental interest and business interests (Our recent video outlines the debate).

In 1970, the creation of the bill defined a straightforward goal: to ensure that state and local agencies assess the environmental impacts of construction projects and mitigate the negatives consequence if possible. 

Over time, the law has evolved into an extensive public planning requirement that applies to nearly all public and private projects and addresses a wide-spectrum of business, labor, environmental and community interests  Advocates on all sides are passionate and determined.

This conversation won’t be easy. At, we aren’t advocates, other than advocating that the state have this conversation.

Our job is to make sure that our reporting is balanced and educational. You’ll be seeing different points of view on our blog offering both praise and criticism of this landmark law. 

We ask this, don’t judge this effort by any one blog, but by the sum of all that you see and read in the coming weeks. 

It’s not surprising that the California Economic Summit–a partnership of the California Stewardship Network and California Forward– – identified the modernization of CEQA as one of its seven signature initiatives. For many community and business leaders around the state, it is a symbol of Sacramento’s disconnect with the rest of the state.

To these Californians, modernizing CEQA is vital to improving middle-class job creation and revitalizing our economy as a whole. 

As legislators begin to develop proposals to tackle this thorny issue, we will report them here, together with the opinions of experts and thoughts of Californians from around the state.

We welcome your comments.


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan