Sunday, November 11, 2012

#315 / Environmental Study

Sierra Club California is holding its statewide Convention at Rancho El Chorro, located in San Luis Obispo County. It does seem appropriate to hold the Convention in an Environmental Study Area, though we all need to do more than merely "study" the environment.

Among other things, I am at the Convention to lead a workshop on "Defending CEQA," the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is California's most important environmental protection law, and it is facing a major challenge in the State Legislature, with the Governor having announced himself as a CEQA foe.

Here's my outline: 

Defending CEQA

  • What Is It?
  • How Does It Work?
  • Why We Love CEQA
  •  Why Others Don't
  • Complaints / Responses
  • The Year Ahead
Here''s the bottom line

If we are not willing to insist that our governmental agencies include the public in a thoroughgoing analysis of the possible environmental impacts of proposed governmental actions, and if we aren't willing to require those agencies to do everything possible to eliminate identified impacts (and this is exactly what CEQA requires, and what business and development interests want to avoid), then local communities and the natural environment  are going to suffer injuries that are now being avoided. CEQA is more than just a "process" that takes time and money. It includes a "substantive mandate," which absolutely requires governmental agencies to eliminate the identified negative impacts of their proposed actions, or to reduce those impacts to the greatest extent feasible. The Governor, and lots of members of the California State Legislature, are getting ready to attack this fundamental commitment to environmental protection. 

I am happy that the Sierra Club, and Club activists, will fight back against legislative efforts to turn back history, and abandon our current system of environmental protection. But that won't be enough. We are all going to have to get involved, next year, or we are going to lose the best environmental protection law now on the books, not only in California, but just about anywhere!

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