The Schwarzenegger administration seeks to exempt 100 major construction projects across the state - including private developments - from California environmental laws. The plan, denounced by environmentalists, would block the power of the courts to review 25 projects each year from 2011 through 2014, and give final authority over the projects to his administration.
Anybody starting to see a trend here? One of the cornerstones of SB 375 is the CEQA exemptions it offers to those wishing to develop high density housing projects in places identified as "transit corridors." Sierra Madre being one of many cities so unfortunately situated. Then there was the CEQA exemption offered to Ed Roski and his NFL stadium and shopping complex, effectively ending any hope of mitigating the effects of this massive project on the less than thrilled neighboring communities.
And now Arnold and his allies in the State Legislature want to further eviscerate our environmental laws by doling out exemptions to major corporations hoping to save themselves some time, bother, and money. All by making a few phone calls to the Governor and coming to some sort of mutually rewarding accommodation.
CEQA, which is the acronym for California Environmental Quality Act, was originally signed into existence by that noted tree hugging liberal governor Ronald Reagan. Here is how the California Natural Resources Agency describes all of this:
CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible ... The impetus for CEQA can be traced to the passage of the first federal environmental protection statute in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In response to this federal law, the California State Assembly created the Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Quality to study the possibility of supplanting NEPA through state law. This legislative committee, in 1970, issued a report entitled 'The Enironmental Bill of Rights,' which called for a California counterpart to NEPA. Later that same year, acting on the recommendations of the select committee, the legislature passed, and Governor Reagan signed, the CEQA statute.
The irony here is that Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends in the State Legislature, all the while heaping praise upon themselves as being the greenest of all greens, are 40 years after its inception looking to turn California's groundbreaking environmental protection law into a tool for fundraising. Here is how one aggravated Sierra Club spokesman described this process to Capitol Weekly:
"We've been concerned since last year's (Los Angeles) stadium CEQA exemption that it opened the floodgates, and now you've got lots of wealthy developers hiring lobbyists to try and buy their own CEQA exemptions. This proposal would kind of institutionalize that feeding frenzy," said Bill Magavern of Sierra Club California. "It's as if the developers' lobbyists are writing the bill," he said.
And why not? After all, they wrote SB 375, right?