Sunday, April 11, 2010

100 / Attack On CEQA

The California Environmental Quality Act is under attack. Because CEQA reduces the power of elected officials, vis a vis members of the community, elected officials have never been that wild about CEQA. Last year, in the State Legislature, a bill was passed, and then signed by the Governor, which approved a project that the courts were even then reviewing for CEQA compliance.

Make no mistake, the "power" of CEQA comes from the recognition that the courts will insist that its provisions be followed. Eliminate court review and you eliminate the power of CEQA. Here, before a court could even hear the arguments, the State Legislature decided that it didn't care whether CEQA had been properly followed or not. It simply voted to approve the project - a sports arena project sponsored by a very rich man - thus removing the CEQA challenge from the court's jurisdiction.

This year, the Legislature is considering bills that would allow the Governor selectively to exempt projects from court review, with respect to a court challenge under CEQA. As you might suspect, the Governor supports this idea. If passed and signed into law, this kind of legislation would massively undercut the ability of ordinary citizens to use CEQA to make sure that governmental actions respect the environment. It would also allow very valuable "special privileges" to be doled out at the Governor's whim.

Finally, The Valero Energy Corporation and other oil companies are sponsoring an anti-CEQA initiative measure, now cleared for signature gathering, that would prohibit any ordinary person from going to court to challenge a CEQA document. Only the Attorney General would be able to sue. Given the realities of the state budget, passage of this initiative measure would basically mean the end of CEQA enforcement in the courts. And that would mean the end of CEQA.

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