Reforms are needed to state's environmental law
We hope the departure of state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, does not slow potential reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act, a law that has stymied developments for years.
Rubio, who abruptly resigned last month, was one of the key advocates for making changes to the law that many point to as one of the reasons companies are leaving the state and many won’t come here in the first place.
Gov. Jerry Brown has weighed in that he supports changes to the law that has been used far too often to stop developments, not so much because those developments might hurt the environment, but simply because someone opposes the project. Competitors, unions and other have used the law. The law is being used today in an attempt to block a Super Walmart from being constructed here.
CEQA has its roots in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and was signed into law by then Gov. Ronald Reagan. It applies to certain activities of state and local public agencies, requiring them to ensure projects will not have a detrimental impact on the environment — air, water, species and land. The environmental review adds tremendous costs to almost any project.
CEQA makes environmental protection a mandatory part of every state and local agency’s decision making process.
While no one is calling for the elimination of CEQA, although some would like to see it go away altogether, major reforms are needed. It needs to be clearly defined what level of project requires environmental review and how much review is necessary. The local Walmart issue is a good example. It is being planned for an existing shopping center that has already gone under the environmental microscope, yet is being held up for environmental reasons
We hope moderate Democrats in the state Legislature continue to push for the much overdue reform of CEQA.