Saturday, February 18, 2012

#49 / Slow Government

I really like the slow food movement. Click the link for an explanation.

Take your time. Don't wolf your meals. (That is slow food as presented by my Mother).

As we reflect on the advantages of "slow food," maybe we should also reflect on the advantages of "slow government."

The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, is a preeminent "slow government" measure. CEQA requires every government agency that intends to take an action that "might" have an adverse impact on the natural environment to go through a lengthy environmental review process. The process takes place in four steps.

First, the government proposing the project does a "draft" Environmental Impact Report (or EIR) that fully describes the project and its environmental consequences. Second, the public is given a period to comment on the Draft EIR. Third, the government agency must fully and substantively respond to all the comments received, and publish a "Final" EIR which is comprised of the draft, the comments, and the responses to the comments. Fourth and finally, the government agency takes action on the proposed project, fully informed about the possible environmental consequences. If the agency wants to approve the project, the agency must eliminate or minimize any identified environmental impacts to the greatest degree feasible. If it is not possible to eliminate such negative impacts, and the government still wants to do the project, the government can do that, but only if the government can identify and describe the real "overriding considerations" that outweigh the identified negative impacts.

While billed as an "environmental protection" statute, CEQA is, more than anything else, a "good government" statute, since it makes governmental agencies really think about what they are proposing to do, before they take action.

The CEQA process takes time. It is "slow government" at its best. The result: decisions that are more than half-baked.

Better for us!

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, in practice, CEQA does not prevent environmental damage by government projects, it regulates the damage.

    Since governments are not required to choose the least environmentally damaging alternative, or even to identify and analyze all feasible alternatives, there is nothing to keep the government from going ahead with a project that they admit will cause "significant and unavoidable damage" to an endangered species and its habitat.

    The way it works is that the government publishes the draft EIR, then receives public comments. Then the government adjusts the language of the Draft EIR to meet public comment, without substantially changing the project. Frequently the EIR covers a narrow range of alternatives, such that only the agencies preferred alternative meets the objectives of the project.

    Thus the process further tailors the EIR to meet the preferred project and the government then does what it decided to do before the process began. Yes, it takes longer, but the outcome is the same.


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