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Activists fight environmental-law changes proposed by Brown's staff

August 19, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO -- Nearly 50 activist groups sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday opposing changes proposed by his office to state environmental laws to expedite development projects.

The governor’s Office of Planning and Research submitted proposed changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that “would actually do a tremendous amount of damage to the important environmental protections it currently provides,” said the letter, signed by representatives of groups including Sierra Club California, the League of Women Voters of California and the Planning and Conservation League.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) had proposed to no longer require new environmental studies for certain residential projects in cities that have a specific plan previously through an environmental study.

The groups opposed the proposal by Brown’s office to extend the streamlining to include commercial and mixed-use projects, saying they should not be allowed to proceed based on “stale” environmental studies.

The groups also opposed a proposal by Brown’s office that would allow cities to set their own environmental standards for issues such as traffic. “Allowing cities to set their own environmental standards would eviscerate environmental protections that have helped California retain its competitive advantage as a desirable place to live,” the groups said in the letter.

The environmental coalition also objected to a proposal to require court approval of settlements of CEQA lawsuits. “While the change proposed in this section may be intended to encourage speedy resolution of CEQA-related disputes, it instead creates additional hurdles that would make it more difficult for settlements to be reached and increase burdens to the already overtaxed court system,” the letter says.

Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown, said the concerns will be considered. "We appreciate the input from the interested parties on this matter," Evans said. "The Governor has made no secret of his support for modernizing CEQA in a way that works for California's environment and its economy."

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