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Fact Sheet: Protecting California’s Statewide Environmental Law

This important information involves protecting the future of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) which is our bulwark against Liberty quarry! PLEASE take time to do this as soon as possible. 

PROTECTING YOUR COMMUNITY’S RIGHT TO ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS

Imagine someone wanting to build a chemical plant on your community’s only wildlife preserve, or next to your child’s elementary school.  What if they told you that you would have NO say in the matter. You would have NO chance to ask WHAT this project would do to air quality or traffic or your drinking water. That would be unacceptable! 

Well, that is exactly what a new slate of bills recently introduced into the California Legislature seeks to do.  If any one of these laws passes, the Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Administration would be allowed to select 25 development projects per year and grant them immunity from California’s Environmental Quality Act, the state’s fundamental law giving citizens the ability to review the environmental impacts of proposed development.

If passed, your community would never get a chance to hold developers and project proponents accountable for impacts on water quality, open space, air quality, traffic congestion, noise, and any other effects. 

Think about the effects of new power plants, land fills, quarries, dams and so on and on.  Projects would be exempt from mitigation, form legal action, from ANY consequences.

The first two of these bills are SB 1010 and AB 1805.  These bills will be going before the House and the Senate soon.  WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE KILLED!

Everyone, PLEASE write your elected officials and tell them to STOP both these bills and others that will follow. We cannot allow what has taken years to accomplish to be destroyed.  Let’s make ourselves heard!  

 

The Honorable Dennis Hollingsworth
State Legislature

California State Capitol,  Room 5064  
Sacramento, CA  95814

The Honorable Kevin Jeffries
State Legislature

California State Capitol, Room 5128
Sacramento, CA  95814

 Here is a sample letter.  It is best if you can use your own words.

I am strongly opposed to both AB 1805 and SB 1010, as well as others that follow. Both of these bills, along with others that follow, seek to undermine the ability of California residents to review the environmental impacts of major developments in our communities as well as to participate in decisions that affect our communities.  

 

Fact Sheet: Protecting California’s Statewide Environmental Law
Ensuring Safe & Healthy Communities, Public Participation and Accountability

February 21, 2010

Background  

California’s most important environmental law—the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)—was enacted in 1970 and signed by Governor Ronald Reagan.  Under this law, Californians from all parts of the state have been able to safeguard the health and well being of their families and neighborhoods, and protect their communities from environmental toxins and other hazards.  

The purpose of California’s environmental law is to: 1) provide information about environmental hazards that could result from proposed residential, commercial, public or transportation projects or developments; 2) give residents and organizations a say about putting a proposed project in their community; and, 3) offer ways to improve a proposed project or reduce its negative environmental impacts. CEQA (Public Resources Code 21000-21177) 

This good government tool has enabled ordinary people to participate in decision-making about how their neighborhoods will grow and how new developments can be modified to avoid health hazards. As the examples below demonstrate, CEQA also ensures accountability and requires improvements to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the natural areas that are important to us. 

 A Legacy of Benefits from Strong, Statewide Environmental Protections

 In 2009, a coalition of unions and environmental groups operating in the Mojave Desert relied on the state’s environmental protection law to stop a proposed air quality management district rule that would have increased the desert’s already high level of air particles. California Unions for Reliable Energy v. Mojave Desert Air Quality (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 1225.

 In 2001, a broad-based coalition of environmental and community groups used CEQA to compel an examination of alternatives to 32-acres of proposed warehouses on the Cornfields, an area in LA’s Chinatown that had no parks or green space.  Subsequently, the Cornfields was transformed into the Los Angeles State Historic Park, the first-ever urban park acquisition for the California State Parks system. Everyday Heroes Protect the Air We Breathe, the Water We Drink and the Natural Areas We Prize: 35 Years of the California Environmental Quality Act.  Planning and Conservation League, 2005. 

In 2001, residents, environmental justice groups and environmentalists used CEQA to challenge the expansion of the Port of Los Angeles’ approval of a terminal expansion for a shipping container line.  After a determination that an environmental review had not been conducted, the parties reached a historic settlement requiring the Port to reduce air pollution and industrial blight over the next four years. Natural Resources Defense Council v. City of Los Angeles (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 342. 

In 1990, Mothers of East Los Angeles defeated a plan to build a toxic waste incinerator next to homes, churches, and schools.  A lawsuit filed under CEQA resulted in an environmental review of the health risks associated with the project.  Faced with new information about the effects of the toxins that would be released in the burning process, the incinerator project was withdrawn. Everyday Heroes (2005)

In 1981, alkaline mineworkers in Trona used CEQA to require review of an air quality district rule that would have weakened nitrogen emission rules at their worksite. International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union v. Board of Supervisors (1981) 116 Cal.App.3d 265.

 In the 1970’s the Century Freeway was envisioned as a 10-lane freeway that would have destroyed 8,250 moderate-income housing units and displace 21,000 people in South LA.  Thanks to CEQA and efforts by civil rights and environmental groups, the freeway project was modified to 8 lanes with a light rail line running down the middle. It also provided for the replenishment of lost affordable housing, displacement assistance, and set hiring goals for minority and female workers. Everyday Heroes (2005).

A 40-Year History of Attacks on CEQA: Based on Anecdotes not Facts 

Throughout its 40-year history, business groups have waged campaigns to undermine California’s environmental law arguing that it is too costly, is used inappropriately to stop development and results in frivolous lawsuits. CEQA Reform: Issues and Options, Public Policy Institute of California, 2005

A 2005 report on CEQA developed by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on behalf of the California Resources Agency found that “[L]ongstanding complaints from developers helped ensure that periods of major controversy generally coincided with economic downturns, during which business leaders increased pressure for regulatory relief.” CEQA Reform (2005). 

Moreover, a 1997 report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) found that the evidence of problems CEQA opponents rely on “is often anecdotal...there is no quantitative data available to enable an assessment of the magnitude of these problems or measure their overall impact.” CEQA: Making it Work Better, California Legislative Analyst’s Office, March 20, 1997.  

The LAO report also states: “It is difficult to assess fully whether concerns about CEQA litigation act as a major impediment to business development because there has not been any study of CEQA’s economic impact on business statewide.” CEQA: Making it Work Better (1997).

 The PPIC report cites research showing that there are, in reality, few CEQA legal challenges—just one lawsuit filed for every 354 developments going through environmental review.  And, most legal rulings in these cases are decided in favor of the government agency’s decision about the project. CEQA Reform (2005).

 The Current Economic Crisis: Dangerous, New Attacks on CEQA 

The great recession and the California budget crisis have provided CEQA opponents yet another opening to engage in another wave of attacks on California’s premiere environmental law. California Environmental Scorecard: 2009 Legislative Year, California League of Conservation Voters, 2010. 

The most recent efforts to weaken statewide environmental protections started in 2009 when state legislators passed a special bill giving eight transportation projects the right to build without having to follow to California’s environmental law.  This waiver or exemption from CEQA was given so the projects would be “shovel ready” and eligible for federal stimulus money. Ibid. 

In late 2009, billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr. created an alliance with business, labor and politicians to pass another bill, this one allowing his new NFL stadium in the City of Industry to be built without having to comply with state environmental law.  Roski’s alliance used the economic crisis and the state’s high unemployment rate as cover for this bill—but this time for a privately owned project. Morain, Dan. “Realty tycoon sacks Capitol in quest for L.A. football,” Sacramento Bee, February 7, 2010.   

Roski’s success prompted more interest in this approach to get around CEQA.  In Jan. 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger proposed giving exemptions to 100 major construction projects, including private developments, over a 5-year period. In Feb., four bills were introduced to create the “CEQA Litigation Protection Pilot Program” authorizing the Secretary of Business, Housing & Transportation to pick 125 “favored” projects to receive immunity from state environmental law. ABX8 37; AB1805; SBX8 42; SB1010.

 Also in Feb. 2010, the California Attorney General’s Office received four versions of a ballot measure that would restrict the right to challenge a proposed development’s environmental impact report to the CA Attorney General. Starpointe Ventures, an Orange County development firm, submitted the draft ballot language.  Text of Proposed Laws 10-0008, 10-0009, 10-0010, 10-0011: California Jobs & Housing Act Statutory Amendment. Submitted to the CA Attorney General’s Office by Timothy Strader, Sr., Jan. 28, 2010

“Economic fear is never good for environmental protection. The false dichotomy of “jobs versus the environment” gets severely tested…” California Environmental Scorecard

 

 

 

 

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