Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another View: CEQA reform bill leaves safeguards in place - Sacramento Bee

On Aug. 26, The Bee published an editorial titled "CEQA end run could come back to haunt the Delta and Sacramento." The editorial states that legal experts claim the CEQA reform bill might exempt the peripheral tunnels from environmental review. This assertion is wrong.

The CEQA reform bill did not create an exemption for the peripheral tunnels or for any other project. California's environmental standards are among the most stringent in the nation if not the world, including groundbreaking climate change legislation such as AB 32 and SB 375. Yet today, public and private projects throughout the state are commonly challenged under CEQA even when they meet all these existing, stringent local, state and federal environmental and land use laws, regulations and local planning requirements.

Under the CEQA reform bill, projects that are currently required to undergo CEQA review would still be required to undergo such review. The bill, however, stated that if a project undergoes CEQA review and is subject to existing environmental standards and plans, then a legal claim cannot be asserted under CEQA that it should be required to go above and beyond existing law.

Importantly, the bill allows approving agencies to require additional mitigation to address local concerns but eliminates challenges to existing environmental standards based on project-by-project courtroom attacks that often have little to do with the environment. Moreover, for a topic where no applicable standards exist, in-depth CEQA review, unique mitigation and potentially litigation would continue. Therefore, contrary to some assertions, the bill does not lower any environmental standards and does not exempt any projects from CEQA's environmental review requirements.

The Bee previously recognized the value of this type of CEQA reform. On Aug. 16, a Bee editorial stated, "CEQA has problems, particularly the way it can easily be leveraged to obtain concessions that have nothing to do with the environment." The editorial concluded that a method to address CEQA's flaws would be to establish a "statewide planning law that sets across-the-board standards for housing and transportation." The CEQA reform bill contemplated by lawmakers this August would do precisely what The Bee recommended.

As CEQA lawyers who represent state, regional and local agencies as well as developers, we have a keen interest in both protecting the environment, and providing clarity and consistency in the application of the law. We look forward to continued discussions on the modernization of CEQA.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Tina A. Thomas of the Thomas Law Group, Jocelyn D. Thompson of Alston & Bird, and Michael H. Zischke of Cox, Castle & Nicholson practice in the area of environmental and land use law. Together, they have more than 90 years of combined CEQA experience.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

• Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.

No comments:

Post a Comment