Lawmakers want to change the California Environmental Quality Act in their session’s final days. But it’s too late for careful language or public vetting.
With a little more than a week remaining in the legislative session, suddenly the big buzz is about CEQA. The Legislature has long neglected to reform the California Environmental Quality Act, even though it needs amending. And now that it’s too late for carefully rendered language or a full public vetting, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) is touting CEQA reform as one of his top priorities. Under the gut-and-amend process in the last days of the session, major change to one of California’s most important laws could happen literally in the dark of night just before legislators race out of Sacramento.
A memo couched in legislative language has been circulating in the Capitol. The changes it calls for reportedly would severely undermine the law, rather than reforming it, by exempting from litigation development projects that meet city and county general plans. But many of those plans are weak or outdated, and fall short of modern environmental standards.
More problematic is that no one outside the Legislature appears to know the language or source of this document. No author is listed, but on Tuesday Sen. Michael Rubio (D-East Bakersfield) confirmed that he was gutting a bill about fisheries management and inserting language to amend CEQA, though its wording would be different from the memo. The new version of the bill will be introduced Wednesday or Thursday.