Tuesday, July 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Expect CEQA changes this year

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | January 03, 2013 |

No law annoys California developers more than the California Environmental Quality Act, and they figure to win at least some changes to its strict 42-year-old rules this year.

They almost sneaked through a major softening of the state’s premier environmental law last September in the waning moments of the last legislative session, but were forced to back off in the face of heavy objections to softening the law without any public hearings at all.

CEQA requires sponsors of any building project or other development that will have a significant effect on the environment to write an environmental impact report assessing the effects of even its smallest aspects. Signed in 1970 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the law was intended to supplement the National Environment Policy Act of 1969, signed by President Richard Nixon. That law demands an environmental impact statement for every significant action by any federal agency.

The national law, for just one example, is the reason why the U.S. Navy cannot practice gunnery on the western side of the military-owned San Clemente Island without first making sure it won’t affect migrating whales.

The state law has been used by environmentalists and others to obstruct countless projects, with legal challenges to the adequacy of EIRs often adding months and years to the planning cycle of projects as diverse as sports arenas and apartment buildings.

Business and development interests maintain they respect the way CEQA provides the public with information about the effects of projects large and small. Effects measured by EIRs include everything from public health considerations — would a new freeway create health risks from vehicle exhaust? — to increased traffic and potential danger to wildlife. Once identified, adverse impacts must be mitigated, often adding large sums to project costs.

No governor since CEQA passed has seemed more receptive to loosening its requirements than the current version of Jerry Brown, ironically taking a very different approach than he did in his first gubernatorial incarnation from 1975 to 1983.

In a news conference last August, Brown allowed that “I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption I didn’t like.” Later he remarked that “CEQA reform is the Lord’s work.” It was no surprise, then, when developer allies in the Legislature quickly sought to push changes through.

Among the alterations attempted then and likely to return this year was an exclusion from CEQA for projects that already comply with local land-use plans previously certified as consistent with CEQA.

Brown’s turnaround on this law stems from his experience as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007, a time when several projects he saw as bettering blighted areas of that city were delayed or stymied by challenges under CEQA.

In his first year back as governor, Brown signed one bill fast-tracking legal review under CEQA for a proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and another speeding up big projects (costing at least $100 million) that incorporate high environmental standards. But he pulled back on a push to exclude high-speed rail construction from CEQA. There also has been talk of excluding proposed water-transporting tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The entire picture dismays environmental leaders and excites development interests. “It would be really devastating for California and probably the rest of the nation for the kind of precedent this would set,” Jena Price, legislative director of the Planning and Conservation League, told a reporter.

On the other side, the CEQA Working Group, a coalition of business, labor and affordable housing interests, claims that other laws like the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and a panoply of anti-smog laws make CEQA at least partially redundant, forcing developers to spend time and money going over similar sets of facts in excessive paperwork. This outfit maintains it wants to eliminate duplication and provide even wider environmental disclosure than CEQA now does.

“Duplicative and overlapping processes often result in lengthy project-permitting delays and uncertainty,” said Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., in a letter to lawmakers.

But environmentalists point to a 2005 study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California indicating only one project in every 354 is ever delayed by CEQA-related actions.

They contend business interests don’t really want to modernize the landmark environmental law, they want to gut it and deprive the public of an opportunity to force changes that often have cut many stories out of high-rises and created numerous small wildlife preserves.

The strong arguments on both sides here make it obvious that changing CEQA should not happen in secrecy, but only with plenty of public input. But even at that, some softening of CEQA seems inevitable during the coming legislative session.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

Somewhere, over the rainbow

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1

 
More homes for sale in Davis, at higher prices

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

Girls sleep safely at Myanmar school, thanks to generous Davisites

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Davis teen succumbs to head injuries

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

Police seek suspect in Woodland robbery spree

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Poppenga files to run for Davis school board

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A2

Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Federal appeals court deals blow to health law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Driver dies in rural crash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Appeals panel upholds race in admissions for UT Austin

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A3

 
Parents’ Night Out planned Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Saylor welcomes visitors at ‘office hours’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Summer produce, yummy treats featured at Sutter market

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

STEAC needs donations of personal care items

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Drop off school supplies at Edward Jones offices

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Explore the night sky at Tuleyome Astronomy Night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Tickets on sale now for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A5

Yolo County CASA seeks volunteer child advocates

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Korean teenagers welcome us with open arms

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Time to support people with disabilities

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Shame on the Palestinians

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 8 Comments

 
Kimble left a swimming legacy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Any treasures at The Cannery?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Questions about city revenue

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

John Cole cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

 
Son-in-law has them worried

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

Not up for full-time caregiving

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
.

Sports

Tour leader Nibali: A ‘flag-bearer’ against doping

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Yolo Post 77 looks to avenge last year’s outcome

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Thompson shines as Republic falls

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

River Cats overpower Chihuahuas

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Area sports briefs: Heintz returns to UCD

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

MLB roundup: Duvall, Kontos help Giants beat Phillies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

Winters Fourth Friday Feast celebrates cycling

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Lincoln Highway rolls into Central Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Rock Band campers perform at E Street Plaza

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Acme Theatre to present ‘The Rememberer’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Video highlights walking The Camino

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

‘Grease’ is the show at WOH

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7