Which pretty much completes yet another step in the process of removing any local recourse to development projects Sacramento might deem worthy of its patronage. While SB 375 has effectively removed CEQA reviews from any projects deemed to be a part of an overall Transportation Oriented Development deal, the 4 bills introduced yesterday, collectively known as the "CEQA Litigation Protection Pilot Program," finishes that picture. When signed into law, this legislation will allow any CEQA exemptions to be doled out to developers that the Governor has taken a shine to. Which will mean that yet another power that used to belong to the people of California has been confiscated and placed into the hands of whoever happens to be the strongman in Sacramento at the time.
A couple of days ago Sacramento Bee editorial writer Dan Morain anticipated yesterday's legislative debacle, and made some telling observations about just exactly what was about to go down.
Schwarzenegger seeks to help more developers like Ed Roski - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping that his political relationship with billionaire Ed Roski Jr. bares offspring. Aswe wrote on Sunday, the governor signed extraordinary legislation exempting Roski from lawsuits over California environmental law in his effort (to) construct an 80,000-seat football stadium in the San Gabriel Valley town of City of Industry. The stadium would house the National Football League team Roski hopes to bring to the Los Angeles area. Now as part of his push to help the economy, the governor is urging lawmakers to approve legislation that would authorize his administration and future governors to grant the same sorts of exemptions to 25 projects a year.
The governor contends that these would be projects where environmental impact reports have already been done. But under this proposal, the governor's secretary of Business, transportation & Housing would gain significant power to reward developers. The secretary could exempt 25 projects, ranging from roads to housing, from lawsuits questioning whether or not the developers had complied with the California Environmental Quality Act. Schwarzenegger has not identified the projects. But his proposal gives the geographic spread: 10 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties; five in Sacramento and other Central Valley counties; five in the Bay Area; and five to be determined.
Schwarzenegger portrays himself as the environment's best friend. But this idea amounts to an assault on the state's strongest environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act ... Many developers are political players. This could be a great way for a governor to reward friends. The concept raises all sorts of other questions. What happens if a developer doesn't make the list? Could that developer seek special legislation to be placed on the favored list? Could that developer sue to be added to the list?
Yesterday legislation was introduced in both the State Senate and Assembly to accomplish just those ends. These are the 4 bills that would effectively turn California's signature environmental protection law into yet one more prize available within the Sacramento patronage system. Think of it as the monetizing of our environmental birthright.
AB x8 37 (Calderon & Nestande)
AB 1805 (Calderon & Nestande)
Pretty sad to say, but you would think that something as momentous as the introduction of legislation that would end the California Environmental Quality Act, signed into law 40 years ago by then Governor Ronald Reagan, would merit a little news coverage. But, and according to the Google checks I've just made, as of this typing you are now reading the only news venue anywhere that is covering this piece of the story. Good times.
Another piece of the puzzle for your consideration. One of the centerpieces of Governor CEQA Terminator Schwarzenegger's claims to green divinity is SB 375. This dubious piece of legislation, which proclaims that we can somehow build our way out of global warming, is often cited by those who defend the environmental record of this guy. But is it really all it's cooked up to be? Is this really a "Green" law? Apparently SCAG majordomo Hasan Ikhrata has his doubts. This from a California Planning & Development Report piece called "Locals Attack SB 375 As Inefficient Way To Go After Climate Change:"
A similar but more subtle argument came from Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, which is charged with implementing SB 375 in the Los Angeles region. Speaking on the same panel as Schuiling, Ikhrata said: "I don't think 375 should be thought of as a global warming bill. I don't think it's the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions ... When I speak about 375 I speak about a land use bill, an urban form bill."
This was substantially the same point Ikhrata made a couple of weeks ago at the SCAG General Assembly in La Quinta, when he rolled out SCAG's "conceptual land use plan." Ikhrata did not deny that SCAG and the region's local governments should pursue a more efficient urban form, but, rather, argued that policymakers should rely less on the idea that climate change is the reason for doing so.
Well there you go. I guess SB 375 never really was about saving the world after all. Rather it is just another shoddy piece of Sacramento legislation designed to reward the development lobbies for their generous support. Which is pretty much what the four bills introduced yesterday are all about as well.
So where is the Green outrage?