An effort to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act in the last two weeks of the legislative session appeared this morning to pick up, with business leaders calling publicly for changes and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying he expects a bill to come up in the Assembly.
The proposal aired by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests at a news conference this morning resembled draft legislation that would limit the ability to challenge certain projects in court. One proposal would exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.
"We're here to press this effort forward," said Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs. "We need to do this in California. If there's an opening that opens up in these last couple of weeks of session, we're going to take advantage of it if we can. But if not, it doesn't matter that much. We're going to be in it for the long haul. We'll be back."
The business group, which includes retailers and builders, is being advised by Gov. Jerry Brown's top political adviser, Steve Glazer. Brown himself has been critical of CEQA, the state's landmark environmental law, and he signed three bills last year limiting its reach.
Environmentalists today were already lobbying against the proposal at the Capitol. Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said general plans are not sufficiently detailed to address environmental concerns about projects.
"The reason you do this analysis is to figure out how much impact that particular project will have," she said.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he is a "strong believer in the importance of our environmental laws" but is open to discussion.
"If and when something comes over to the Senate," he said, "we'll take a look at it."