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Senate leader proposes modest changes in state's environmental law

February 22, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • State Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
State Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

The leader of the state Senate proposed modest changes to California’s environmental laws Friday, just hours after the resignation of a legislator who had called for a more dramatic revision.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) introduced a bill that only outlines his intent to pursue some changes in the law, including a process for expediting environmental review of eco-friendly projects such as bike lanes and clean energy plants. Bill language will be drafted later.

The Steinberg proposal is "much less harmful and dangerous" than legislation proposed last year by Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), according to David Pettit, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Rubio, who resigned Friday to take a job with Chevron Corp., sat on a working group with Pettit that was tasked by Steinberg with coming up with a compromise reform plan for the California Environmental Quality Act.

Rubio’s proposal, scuttled last year by Steinberg, would have allowed some projects to escape parts of state environmental law if they complied with local planning rules, potentially allowing them to avoid more rigorous review, Pettit said.

"That is not in this proposal by Sen. Steinberg,’" he said.

Indeed, Steinberg’s SB 731 says, "It is not the intent of the Legislature to replace full CEQA analysis with state or local standards,’’ although exceptions may be allowed for in-fill housing projects in otherwise developed neighborhoods of the Central Valley. The bill would provide $30 million for grants to help cities and counties upgrade their general plans to provide more reasonable environmental protections.

Rubio declined to say whether he supported the Steinberg plan. Steinberg said it is the basis for compromise with business and labor groups.

"This measure sets the framework to encourage smart, environmentally sound growth by streamlining the environmental review process without compromising the quality of life Californians deserve and expect in our communities," Steinberg said in a statement.


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