NBLC Calls For Review of CEQA Guidelines

NBLC, other business council leaders and the leaders of five of the California Summit action teams are urging the governor and his Administration to complete a peer review of a scheduled update to CEQA’s administrative regulations—known as the CEQA Guidelines—before they are made public later this year. The letter also urged the Administration to include in the process state agencies that are obligated to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act for critical infrastructure, renewable energy, economic development, and regulatory activities.

In the letter to the governor, it said, “We believe that experienced CEQA practitioners…can efficiently advise the Administration, and OPR, on the extent to which the proposed updates to the Guidelines would achieve the Administration’s policy objectives to improve CEQA.  We believe these practitioners can [also] identify the types of ambiguous or impractical Guideline provisions that are likely to result in more lawsuits and litigation uncertainty.”

NBLC serves on the Summit’s Regulations action team, which has formed a group of experts dedicated to exploring administrative options for improving CEQA. These include updating the CEQA Guidelines, a set of regulations that explain and interpret the law for both the general public and the public agencies that administer CEQA.

Earlier this year, this Summit team offered a detailed analysis of a preliminary evaluation of the CEQA Guidelines conducted by the Office of Planning & Research (OPR)—a process set in motion by a piece of legislation, SB 743, signed into law in 2013. In that letter, the Summit applauded the Administration’s commitment to curtail CEQA litigation abuse, more effectively integrate compliance with California’s many other environmental laws into CEQA practice, and to reduce the time, cost, and uncertainties that have undermined effective CEQA implementation. The Summit identified several areas where OPR could advance these goals.

“All CEQA lawsuits target public agencies, and public agencies bear the highest burden of CEQA’s costs, delays, and uncertainties,” the letter said. “Updating the CEQA Guidelines can either increase this burden—or provide practical and clear direction on lawful compliance practices that reduce it. We urge the Administration to reach beyond OPR to other CEQA practitioners in key state agencies—and to complete this interagency peer review process, prior to releasing proposed revisions to the Guidelines.”

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