A proposal to loosen California’s landmark environmental protection law is expected to be introduced at the Capitol as soon as Thursday, giving the public and lawmakers only about a week to debate and consider the controversial legislation’s fate.
Backers of the proposal, largely from the business community, say the California Environmental Quality Act passed in 1970 needs to be updated because it has become cumbersome, and some individuals and groups misuse the law to stop or delay development for non-environmental reasons.
Republicans in the Legislature have long sought changes to the environmental law, commonly known as CEQA, and this year some Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown, signaled that they are open to discussion.
At a news conference last month, the governor said, “I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption I didn’t like.” And on Wednesday in San Francisco at a news conference for his ballot measure to raise taxes, Brown said of the proposal that has been circulating: “To tell you the truth, I have not read it. In fact it’s not even clear we have a final draft yet. But look – CEQA reform is the Lord’s work.”
Environmental groups say the proposal is an attempt to gut the law in the waning days of the legislative session to avoid public input and scrutiny. The Legislature’s two-year session comes to a close Aug. 31.