CEQA Reform Stalled?

Brown questions support in the Legislature

by Brian Leubitz

Speaking to reporters in China, Gov. Brown made it clear that he didn’t think CEQA reform was going to happen this year:

The California Environmental Quality Act, Brown told reporters here, “is supported by some key groups within the Democratic Party, and I think it would be difficult for the Legislature to move that process forward.”

Brown said he remains committed relaxing provisions of the law but that he has a large agenda, including the state budget, water infrastructure and high-speed rail. He said “the appetite for CEQA reform is much stronger outside the state Capitol than it is inside.”

Brown said, “This is not something you get done in a year, but I believe before I depart this stage we will see reform in CEQA.”(SacBee)

Supporting his initial statement that Democrats support CEQA is the fact that the CDP passed a resolution supporting CEQA reform only so far as it maintains the basic environmental protections that are at its heart. Here is the relevant clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the California Democratic Party stands with the labor and environmental community in affirming its support and commitment to CEQA’s original intent to ensure public participation and transparency in the planning process in order to protect California’s environment and calls on the state legislature and governor to oppose any efforts to weaken this law or reduce public participation (CDP PDF)

Look, while Dan Walters thinks that it is just the liberals trying to stop Jerry’s vision of CEQA, there is a lot more to it. The resolution clearly does not say that CEQA shouldn’t be reformed. Even many environmentalists agree with the statement that some reform could make the law better. But the reforms need to be extremely careful to not toss out the very valuable protections that CEQA offers while dumping some of the excess red tape.

Perhaps CEQA reform doesn’t get done this year, but with legislation that is as critical as CEQA, maybe we shouldn’t be rushing it. Let’s make sure we don’t look back at these changes with regret for our environment. We already have enough environmental challenges without creating more for ourselves.