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What's the fate of California's landmark Environmental Quality Act?

by AirTalk®

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Senate President Darrell Steinberg introduced a bill recently that would give CEQA exemptions for a plan to build a downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings. Max Whittaker/Getty Images

Sacramento lawmakers have shown overwhelming support for a bill that would alter the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but last-minute amendments highlight how contentious negotiations have been.

Senate bill 731 would speed up certain construction projects, relying on regional environmental reviews rather than requiring new studies.

Advocates say it would also provide "a more predictable regulatory process for renewable energy and infill development [overall]." Business groups say unions have been using the litigious power of CEQA for ulterior reasons - to ensure unionized workers get first dibs of approved development work.

The major proponent of SB 731 is California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. On Friday, he added new amendments in hopes of winning over business groups and to sustain momentum of the bill. It awaits another vote in the Assembly, then the Senate, then Governor Jerry Brown's signature.

Exactly which business groups are opposed to the new bill and why? How much does it include oil & gas interests? Why are union and environmental groups united in support?


David Pettit, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council and director of NRDC's Southern California Air Program

Jennifer Hernandez, Attorney with Holland & Knight law firm; Hernandez specializes in CEQA on behalf of developers; she co-chairs Holland & Knight’s National Environmental Team and leads the West Coast Land Use and Environment Practice Group for the San Francisco firm

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