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In the middle of an end-of-session bid to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act, 33 Democratic lawmakers urged legislative leaders in a letter released today to oppose any significant re-writing of the law.

"Like many important laws, CEQA is not perfect and could probably be improved while retaining its many benefits - but only if such improvements are undertaken in a good faith process and are crafted very carefully," said the letter, delivered today to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, both Democrats. "Unfortunately, the proposals we have seen and heard about reflect major changes that have not been vetted and are being advanced by special interests in an end-of-session power play."

The letter's release follows a business group's airing Monday of proposed changes to the law, California's signature environmental protection. In a proposal resembling draft legislation circulating at the Capitol, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests are calling to exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.

Following the letter's delivery, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he has collected one more signature - from Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena - bringing the total number of signers to 34.

"This is the biggest blow to environmental laws in many years and it's being pushed through at the last minute," Huffman said. "And I just think we need to make sure that the whole world is watching."

Steinberg said Monday that he expects a CEQA-limiting bill to come up in the Assembly before the end of the legislative session. He said he is a "strong believer in the importance of our environmental laws" but is open to discussion.

Robin Swanson, Pérez's spokeswoman, said Pérez wants to protect CEQA while encouraging job creation.

"Any reforms that are adopted would be those that are good both for the environment and for job creation," she said. "It's all about finding a balance that makes sense."

CEQA Letter

Jim Sanders of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.



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