Leverage: This Time on Environment

The Republicans really have one point of leverage in California government: the 2/3 vote on revenue.  And every year they attempt to use it to pass some law that reduces workplace safety provisions, environmental protections or some other progressive policy.

And so it is no different this year:

The handful of Republican lawmakers most likely to provide crucial votes for Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan are threatening to withhold their support without a dramatic rewriting of state environmental law.

The demand, pushed in private talks with the governor, would curtail lawsuits against projects threatening ecological damage, grant waivers to big telecommunications companies and exempt many urban developments from environmental review.(LA Times)

You can view the proposed changes to the legislation here.

And to be fair, CEQA could probably use some updating.  It often delays, sometimes unreasonably, very good projects.  For example, the “NiMBYs” who are fighting high speed rail are using CEQA to muck up that project.  You can find other good projects, that would be a net positive for the environment that have faced some pretty substantial CEQA headaches.  On the flip side, we have saved many important environmental resources through CEQA.  Wetlands in Orange County, to land surrounding the San Francisco Bay to forests.  CEQA was there to protect them.

Yet, this is a democracy.  And a democracy that is supposed to have some transparency.  If CEQA is to be streamlines, it should be done in the light of day.  It should happen in the standard committee process, with all stakeholders at the table.  Not just a few telecoms and developers.

This is truly a fundamental problem of the 2/3 majority rules.  It leads to legislative blackmail, and honestly, how can we not say a Democratic vote for this CEQA revision would be vote trading. And, you know, that’s not legal.

CEQA plays an important role in the development of this state, and amending it shouldn’t be treated casually, or done in the dark.

9 thoughts on “Leverage: This Time on Environment”

  1. As I look around the landscape of Orange County, there is not a single major piece of open space or wetland that would have been preserved without CEQA and without lawsuits under CEQA. We would still be dumping partially treated sewage into the ocean indefinitely, and we would not have built the world’s largest plant to reclaim sewage into drinking water. The Bolsa Chica wetlands would be gone, replaced by 5,000 homes built around a marina, with endangered species extinct and a major impact on migratory birds on the Pacific flyway.

    I’m currently following the beginning of a “streamlining” process  recommendation coming from southern California water agencies. It’s a push by hard-line right wingers who originally planned  to remove anyone from the environmental community from the process.

    One of their goals is eliminate stumbling blocks for ocean desal projects, which are the least efficient, by far, way of providing additional water, but are also supported by corporations that want to build plants that will then be heavily subsidized by the public. Classic piratization.

    I think there is definitely plenty of room for streamlining the CEQA process, but not in the way that corporations or engineering firms intend. Even projects like large scale green energy projects have options.  They can either be built wherever and however it is cheapest to build them, or they can be built in a way that is more sensitive to the environment.

    There’s already a very simple way to streamline environmental review, which is by actually incorporating environmental concerns from the very beginning of the process. It involves more work up front, but pays huge dividends down the road.

    And as for HSR in California, my impression of the management of the project, particularly involvement of the public in the process, is that it was badly planned and poorly managed. It was classic one-way PR, dog and pony show stuff by consultants.  Craptastic work that inflamed the locals. http://www.voiceofoc.org/count… .

    So comments about “fixing CEQA ” are pretty scary. CEQA can certainly be reformed and streamlined, and preference could easily be given to projects that meet early outreach standards or incorporate processes like area-wide species protection plans or green building standards or form-based codes.

    It would even be a big improvement if the cost of CEQA studies could be dramatically lowered, rather than having cost inflated by consultants who are hired without any regard to cost,

    But those of us who have watched the developers, utilities and public agencies don’t trust them any further than we could throw a viaduct.

  2. Sorry !!

    It’s called ‘politics’

    We MAY have to give up some environmental gains to get the ballot initiative

    I’m willing to make that trade

    How else do we get Republicans to let the extension get on the ballot ?

    Just hold your nose

    These are the SAME Democrats that were going to sell off our state buildings and lease them back from speculators

  3. with focusing cuts to the districts of whoever votes against putting the tax on the ballot. if they want to play hardball and take the state for ransom, given them a taste of their own medicine.

Comments are closed.