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Senate advances bill to streamline environmental reviews

May 29, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — The leader of the state Senate won bipartisan support Wednesday for a bill that would streamline California’s environmental laws.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his measure, which heads next to the Assembly for consideration, is a “work in progress” but said it begins the process of making environmental laws more reasonable.

The existing California Environmental Quality Act is  “is a great statute” but “is due for an update after 40 years on the books,” Steinberg told his colleagues before the 39-0 vote to approve SB 731.

The bill would allow projects to move forward without duplicative evaluation if they are consistent with local specific plans that have already undergone environmental review. It also seeks to speed up the process for pursuing legal challenges on environmental grounds.

“It seeks to find that elusive middle ground between those who believe the statute is irrevocably broken and must be fundamentally changed and those who say ‘don’t touch it, there’s nothing wrong with the statute,’ " Steinberg said.

Republicans including Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) said they would like more changes to prevent frivilous lawsuits that hold up projects on environmental issues.

“I think everybody can agree it’s not sweeping reform,” Berryhill said of the Steinberg bill, but he added it will help economic development in his district.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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