July 23, 2013
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Amendments Needed to SB 731 (Steinberg) to Achieve Meaningful CEQA Reform
The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of business, local government, housing, clean tech,transit, education, transportation and other advocates that have come together to advance meaningful CEQA modernization legislation in 2013.We want to thank you for your continued leadership in advancing the cause of CEQA reform and for your introduction of Senate Bill 731. We also want to thank you for establishing a stakeholder process to negotiate changes to SB 731 with the goal of enacting meaningful reform and we look forward to a positive outcome.
As we enter into the final months of the legislative session, we believe it is critical to significantly amend SB 731 to achieve meaningful reform that stamps out widespread abuses of CEQA that are serving as roadblocks to environmentally responsible projects that create high-value jobs and economic growth.
Unfortunately, as drafted, SB 731 would not advance true CEQA reform and, in fact, could make approval of worthy and responsible projects even more difficult. In its current form we believe SB 731 would introduce new requirements for lead agencies and project proponents and create more opportunities for meritless lawsuits against projects that have otherwise complied with CEQA and other stringent state and local environmental and planning laws and requirements.
We know you share our goal of trying to achieve something meaningful and lasting this year. In that spirit, we respectfully urge you to consider the following principles to amend SB 731 in order for the legislation to achieve the goal of true CEQA reform:
- Incentivize Projects that Help California Achieve Its Aggressive Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Land-use Planning Goals. In recent years, California has adopted the world’s most significant land-use planning and greenhouse gas reduction legislation in the form of SB 375 and AB 32. SB 731 should be amended to provide increased certainty for projects that comply with SB 375 and AB 32 and help the state and individual regions meet our aggressive Greenhouse Gas Reduction (GHG) goals. We must reduce duplicative environmental reviews and reduce meritless lawsuits against such projects. We also need to amend SB 731 to provide greater certainty to renewable energy projects.
- Increase Transparency in CEQA Litigation. Under current law, parties to CEQA litigation can remain anonymous by filing under the name of unincorporated associations with shadow members and hidden interests. We should amend SB 731 to require disclosure of any party that has financially contributed to CEQA litigation, similar to campaign finance disclosure laws and court mandates for third parties seeking to file advocacy briefs in lawsuits.
- Ensure CEQA Litigants Have Skin in the Game. Under current law, CEQA plaintiffs have no responsibility for the costs of litigation, which encourages frivolous challenges. CEQA plaintiffs should be required to pay for the lead agency’s preparation of the record required for CEQA litigation.
We respectfully urge you to consider these principles. We want to thank you for your leadership and look forward to our continued partnership to enact meaningful reform this legislative session.
See the full list of organizations who signed onto the letter here.