Monday, April 11, 2011

#101 / Citizen Enforcement

Looking back over my postings, I find that CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) has been a continuing preoccupation. If you'd like to see the text of the law, and the CEQA Guidelines, and learn more about this important statute, click the link.

I have written about CEQA "basics," not only once, but twice. I have also written about CEQA "reform" on two different occasions: on January 14th and January 15th of this year. I have written about CEQA and global warming, and last April I wrote about the political attacks being launched against CEQA in the State Legislature (those attacks are still coming, one year later, in April 2011).

Today, I felt inspired to write about "citizen enforcement," one of the great things about CEQA. There is no governmental agency charged with enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act. The law sets up a mandatory process that all governmental agencies are supposed to follow, prior to making any decision that even might have a significant negative impact on the environment. But if governmental agencies aren't zealous, and don't actually do what the law requires, there is no agency whatsoever charged with the responsibility of making sure that the law is followed in fact.

Who does that? We do that. That's what citizen enforcement means.

Because CEQA is the quintessential "good government" statute, I encourage potential citizen enforcers to get organized, and to "badge up," and to start making sure that the elected officials who represent you are actually doing what CEQA requires.

There may be a degree of self-interest in this message, since I am now an "environmental attorney," and I get paid for working on these citizen enforcement efforts. There is some good news about that. If a citizen enforcement effort is successful, Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5 generally means that the offending governmental agency pays for the attorney!

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