Governor Schwarzenegger has a beef with CEQA. He’s frustrated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and, as he refers to it, the spaghetti-like requirements inherent in the review process. The Governor recently signed into law two new bills, AB231 and SB1456 to amend CEQA. Both have been deemed moderate improvements.
The Governor, though, was very clear when it came to how he felt about CEQA and the bills signed.
I am greatly disappointed that the Legislature did not see fit to send to my desk a more substantive bill this legislative session designed to reduce widespread and rampant abuses plaguing the CEQA process—abuses which are made possible by complex and overly bureaucratic requirements in the present law.
His stern message was preceded by his quip that the bills were 99% garbage. Read the full message here.
The Governor makes light of the idea that as well-intentioned and necessary (some may argue) as CEQA is, it has worked against many gains. Many that work with CEQA recognize the requirements as lengthy, tiring, and, at times, quite confusing.
As a result, it has been bombarded with numerous lawsuits and frivolous efforts in order to slow, or even halt, entire projects. In fact earlier this month San Francisco’s District 6 Board Supervisor Chris Daly vowed to use CEQA to halt the 34th America’s Cup from coming to the city, I know environmental law… I have some resources.
Daly’s alleged intent to use CEQA to derail the America’s Cup is nothing San Francisco hasn’t seen before. In June 2005 the city of San Francisco amended their General Plan to incorporate a bicycle friendly policy after determining there was no significant impact to the environment under CEQA. Shortly thereafter, a lawsuit ensued claiming the city’s policy, aimed at making bicycling a safe and viable means of transportation, should have undertaken an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) first. Consequently an injunction was filed preventing the city from imposing the bicycle policy. In November 2009, after 3 years, the injunction was lifted.
These examples highlight the Governor’s sentiment. So what can be done? John Husing of Economics and Politics, Inc. offered up an interesting suggestion at UCLA Extension’s 20th Annual Lake Arrowhead Symposium. His idea was to create CEQA courts that specialize solely in related matters. In essence, remove civil and criminal litigation as well as other cases that simply get in the way. As he put it, the judges would become CEQA experts. This would allow the courts to identify groups or individuals who use CEQA to skirt the law or act with unethical intentions. He went on to add that he thinks developers would be more than willing to pay a small fee to maintain the courts.
Do you see this working? What do you think?