CEQA Roundup: Reform now in three flavors before legislature

by Justin Ewers : caeconomy.org – excerpt

Senators Steinberg, Evans and Berryhill have three CEQA bills before the Legislature this session.

What to watch for: Three major approaches

With so much different CEQA legislation on the table, experts are watching three bills in particular to gauge which way the political winds are blowing. Each represents one of the most prominnent approaches to updating the law:

  • Major changes – SB 787 The most far-reaching of the bills aiming to change CEQA, Sen. Tom Berryhill’s (R-Modesto) legislation revives the approach proposed last summer by Sen. Michael Rubio. Berryhill’s bill would exempt from CEQA lawsuits projects that already comply with all other local, state, and federal environmental laws.
  • Modest changes – SB 731: With a Democratic supermajority unlikely to support Berryhill’s approach, Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has proposed a more modest piece of legislation that aims to provide more certainty for infill projects and speed up CEQA’s legal process.
  • Minor changes – SB 617: Environmental groups are currently supporting ten CEQA bills, which propose a variety of minor changes to the law—but Sen. Noreen Evans’s SB 617 may be the most comprehensive. Evans (D-Santa Rosa) would not only change the way CEQA records are kept (as many of the other bills would do), she proposes dramatically expanding CEQA’s scope by resolving a legal question that resulted from the Ballona Wetlands case…

[Changing the law] to overturn the line of appellate court cases that imposed the “fair argument” evidentiary standard, would eliminate the significant litigation advantage that CEQA project opponents now enjoy. The “fair argument” evidentiary standard was invented by the courts in the early days of CEQA, in order to encourage litigation as a means of policing CEQA compliance statewide. See Friends of “B” Street v. Hayward (1980) 106 Cal App 998… (more)

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