Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Letter to California legislature opposing bills that would drive 125 holes through CEQA

(CGF is sending the following letter to members of the California Assembly and State Senate.  -Brian)

February 23, 2010

The Honorable Lou Correa                                            The Honorable Dave Cogdill
State Legislature                                                             State Legislature
California State Capitol, Room 5052                                California State Capitol, Room 5097
Sacramento, CA 95814                                                   Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Charles Calderon                                                The Honorable Brian Nestande
State Legislature                                                             State Legislature
California State Capitol, Room 2117                                California State Capitol, Room 4153
Sacramento, CA 95814                                                   Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:  ABX8 37 (Calderon & Nestande), AB 1805 (Calderon & Nestande), SBX8 42 (Correa & Cogdill), and SB 1010 (Correa & Cogdill) – OPPOSE

Dear Senators Correa and Cogdill and Assembly Members Calderon and Nestande:

The Committee for Green Foothills joins the broad opposition to the four identical bills introduced on February 10, 2010, ABX8 37 (Calderon & Nestande), AB 1805 (Calderon & Nestande), SBX8 42 (Correa & Cogdill), and SB 1010 (Correa & Cogdill). These bills attack a fundamental California environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, and seek to eliminate the central purpose of requiring agencies to "look before they leap" in approving projects and permit, and eliminate legal protection through judicial review of faulty environmental analysis.  The result is to fundamentally undermine the ability of communities to participate in decisions that determine how their neighborhoods will grow and how new developments can be modified to reduce or avoid any significant adverse effects on their health and welfare.

If these bills are passed, the Secretary of the Business, Transportation, and Housing Administration could select 25 projects each year for the next 5 years and grant them immunity from the environmental and public participation requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. The selection would occur before the environmental review has been performed, so it would not be selection based on the quality of each project's environmental review.  The prior selection instead functions as a "blank check" that encourages agencies to downplay environmental risks from projects, because they would know that publishing misleading environmental analyses for projects they favor would in this case, not carry any legal risk.  Further, because there are no objective criteria for the selection of these projects, this is an invitation to the worst kind of political abuse. 

The criteria for project selection make no mention of favoring projects with fewer environmental projects but instead appear to prefer very large projects.  The criteria expressly allow private projects to be exempt, leading to a situation where politically connected, large developer would escape the legal review that pertains to even small project by an average taxpayer that runs a much smaller risk of harming the environment.  Residents in California’s communities, cities, and counties would not be able to enforce the environmental review process of the Environmental Quality Act for any of the 125 projects – no matter their size or impact on their lives. 

These bills would strip the ability of communities to hold developers and project proponents accountable for implementing mitigation measures that reduce or avoid a development project’s significant adverse effects on air and water quality, traffic congestion, noise and open space.

Eliminating the ability to enforce California’s premier public health and environmental law could lead to the siting of new polluting power plants and waste facilities located next to schools and neighborhoods and much more. Other controversial projects such as the peripheral canal; the siting of new energy facilities in spectacular and sensitive areas of the state; new onshore oil facilities and pipelines to support offshore oil development promoted by the Administration; roads through state parks, new residential subdivisions on contaminated soil; and the siting and construction of nuclear power plants, new dams for water storage, new prisons in cities and counties could all get a pass from the necessary scrutiny that ensures the right projects are built in the right location.

For the past four decades, community involvement in the environmental review process has improved proposed projects, reducing a project’s significant adverse impacts to public health and the environment, while improving our quality of life. These bills would allow a select number of projects to avoid public scrutiny.  The inherent ill-advised policy in these bills simply erodes California’s legacy of environmental protection. Therefore, we all strongly oppose these measures.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

Lennie Roberts
Legislative Advocate, San Mateo County

Cynthia D’Agosta, CGF Executive Director

cc:  Santa Clara County and San Mateo County Assembly Members and State Senators

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