Reforms for CEQA? Watch out!

by Gary Patton : santacruzsentinel.com – excerpt

Gary Patton

You have probably heard talk about “reforming” the California Environmental Quality Act. My advice? “Watch out!” The bill language proposed in the last two weeks of the legislative session last year would have eliminated all the benefits of California’s most important environmental law. When widespread “fracking” is on the horizon; when global warming and its impacts are ever more real; when water supplies are diminishing, and when huge and costly infrastructure projects (including desalination) are under consideration at the state and local level, this is not the time to weaken laws that protect our environmental quality.
Here are the three main things that the California Environmental Quality Act actually does. First, it makes government “stop and think” before it acts. Often, governmental officials decide that they really have a good idea, and want to push it through. In Santa Cruz, the proposed desalination plant comes to mind. The California Environmental Quality Act makes governmental agencies go through a process that fully analyzes the pros and cons. This means that the government sometimes changes its mind, precisely because of the new information generated in the environmental review process. Often, the changes are improvements, so projects are made better. That is what has been happening for more than forty years, thanks to the California Environmental Quality Act. There are countless examples. Unless you think that state and local government officials always “know best,” and shouldn’t have to “stop and think” about their plans, you will not want to weaken CEQA… (more)

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