SHENZHEN, China - Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged Tuesday he likely won't be able to overhaul California's signature environmental law in the current legislative session, citing overwhelming opposition from fellow Democrats.
The California Environmental Quality Act, Brown told reporters here, "is supported by some key groups within the Democratic Party, and I think it would be difficult for the Legislature to move that process forward."
Brown said he remains committed relaxing provisions of the law but that he has a large agenda, including the state budget, water infrastructure and high-speed rail. He said "the appetite for CEQA reform is much stronger outside the state Capitol than it is inside."
Brown said, "This is not something you get done in a year, but I believe before I depart this stage we will see reform in CEQA."
Asked about the prospect of a ballot initiative, Brown said it is "always a possibility."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg dismissed the notion that efforts to change CEQA are dead for the year, saying he's "not sure why the governor would say that." The Sacramento Democrat said he still intends to use legislation he has introduced to "find that elusive middle ground between those who think the statute is perfect and doesn't need to be fixed and those who think it needs to be dramatically revamped."
"We're hard at work on the issue and I look forward to maybe spending a little time with him when he gets back," Steinberg said.
A coalition of businesses, local governments and health groups pushing for changes to the law issued a statement praising Brown for "his pledge to try to work out a solution while he is governor...There is strong momentum for reform and our coalition will remain vigilant to try to pass a meaningful CEQA modernization bill as soon as feasible."
Brown's remarks follow the resignation in February of state Sen. Michael Rubio, the Democratic lawmaker leading an effort to relax provisions of the environmental law. Brown predicted at the time that Rubio's resignation could complicate his effort to make changes to the law.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown leaves his hotel in Guangzhou, China on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated with Steinberg's comments at 10:33 a.m. and with comments from the CEQA Working Group at 4:21 p.m. on April 16, 2013.