by Robert Cruickshank/California High Speed Rail Blog
Last week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act to be dead for this legislative session. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg disagreed, declaring CEQA reform not dead yet and that it is in fact moving forward in this session:
A day after Gov. Jerry Brown said overhauling California’s environmental laws was unlikely this year, the leader of the state Senate said Wednesday the effort is very much alive in the Legislature and he thinks it can be accomplished by year’s end.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his bill to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is moving forward and he looks forward to talking to Brown now that the governor has returned from a trade mission in China.
“The Legislature is hard at work on CEQA reform,” Steinberg told reporters. “As soon as the governor gets back, I’m going to sit down with him and go over specific provisions of the bill.”
One of the reasons why CEQA reform is still alive is that Senator Steinberg and his environmental and labor allies believe that it’s better for them to take the lead in revising the law rather than letting big business put an initiative on the 2014 ballot:
The danger in waiting another year is that a more dramatic scaleback of environmental reforms might be proposed by others, perhaps on the ballot. Citing a bill introduced last year by former Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), Steinberg said the state environmental law “was close to being gutted last year.”
The danger for environmental and labor groups is that they’d have no role whatsoever in writing a ballot initiative, and would have to spend millions to defeat it – and even then the issue wouldn’t be put to rest. By going through the legislative route, they can craft reforms that meet their needs and pre-empt a ballot initiative by solving the problems with CEQA this year (or maybe next year).
Needless to say, this is exactly the right approach to be taking, and Senator Steinberg deserves kudos for forging ahead with sensible, responsible CEQA reforms that meet progressive goals without carving open bad new loopholes in the law. Let’s hope he gets this done this year so that California can continue to lead in the fight against the climate crisis and take meaningful steps to reduce carbon emissions.