By Matt Regan
SBX8 42 a bipartisan bill co-authored by Senator Lou Correa (D Santa Ana) and Senator Dave Cogdill (R Modesto) would help spur California’s floundering economy and put thousands of people to work this year instead of two or three years from now.
In a nutshell, this bill would protect from needless litigation, a select number of construction and infrastructure projects, that have completed the rigorous California Environmental Quality Act and been given a clean bill of health.
The CEQA lawsuit is the tool of choice of any disgruntled opponent seeking to halt any new development. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that projects of sufficient scope produce an Environmental Impact Report outlining the potential impacts of their projects and what they plan to do to mitigate those impacts. The EIR process also involves a lot of subjectivity and is therefore ripe for litigation. Anyone with an axe to grind can stall vital new projects for years.
Senators Correa and Hollingsworth are not seeking to bypass or CEQA, quite the contrary, their bill requires that any protected project must first complete the CEQA process and meet with the approval of the appropriate governing or permit issuing body. They are simply asking that once this arduous and expensive process has been completed, and the project in question vetted in public and approved, that construction can start rather than waiting another couple of years for the trial lawyers to repeat the whole process again in a court room.
Business and labor were united this week in Sacramento in support of the bill, yet it remains hung up in Committee, probably destined to die there. I wish I could report that our arguments fell on deaf ears, but the truly sad part of this story is that only two members of the Committee in question were actually present in the chamber when Senator Correa presented his bill.
Opponents of the bill rolled out the same tired arguments that we see any time CEQA reform is discussed; “it’s a slippery slope” “it’s a camel’s nose” “they’ll be strip mining Yosemite Valley next” and the sorriest of them all, “why do we have to sacrifice our environment for short term economic gains?”
This bill is very clear and limited in scope and would do nothing other than kick start environmentally sound, CEQA approved, projects in 2010 instead of 2012 or 2013.
We will continue to advocate for this legislation and for other bills that will help put Californians back to work today.