The California Environmental Quality Act’s intent is important and must be preserved. But it needs modernization in a manner that promotes sustainable development, smart land use decisions, and sound environmental stewardship.
- The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is now 40 years old. It is a very different law today than the one Gov. Ronald Reagan signed in 1972.
- The scope and reach of CEQA has grown from a narrow law intended to analyze and regulate the impacts of large public works projects into one of the most pervasive, intrusive and expensive regulations on the books anywhere in the country.
- Today, it is all but impossible to plan or build anything of any size in California without first having to produce a very expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and then provide mitigation solutions for all suspected impacts.
- These reports are highly subjective documents and as such, are fertile territory for lawsuits. To compound this problem, the standards in place for CEQA litigants to file suit are much lower than in other areas of the law, and everyone has standing to file a suit regardless of harm caused.
- Development tends to follow the path of least resistance, and the many challenges faced by project proponents in urban areas have forced development out into our greenbelts and rural areas, necessitating longer commutes and stress on our transportation infrastructure.
- The abuse of CEQA is delaying and increasing the costs of important public works projects as well as affordable housing and other public benefit development.
WHAT WE SEEK
- An honest and objective analysis of CEQA to determine if the law is actually providing the levels of environmental protection it purports to do.
- Updates should be made to CEQA, where necessary, that will encourage good planning and smart growth at a reasonable cost while maintain high environmental standards.
- Lead Agencies and project sponsors who have met all the standards required by CEQA and the twenty plus environmental protection laws passed since CEQA was signed, should not be subjected to malicious or frivolous lawsuits as they all too often are today.
Lead Agencies and project sponsors who are doing the right thing and meeting all environmental requirements ought to have a fighting chance in court to defend their proposed projects. The “fair argument” standard for litigants must be changed to a “substantial evidence” threshold.