California Senate leader sets in motion reform of state environmental laws


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A month after quashing a rushed attempt to overhaul the state’s environmental laws, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Thursday he is convening meetings with all the parties involved in the issue in the months before the Legislature reconvenes in December.

Steinberg also said he is appointing the author of last month’s environmental bill, Sen. Michael Rubio (D-East-Bakersfield), as chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality for the upcoming legislative session.


Rubio’s business-backed bill, which was opposed by some environmental groups, would have allowed select projects to get expedited judicial review under the state California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Lawsuits have sometimes been used improperly to hold up good projects, backers of the bill argued.

Steinberg said last month it was too important an issue to rush through in the waning hours of the session, but said Thursday that reform of the environmental laws would be a legislative priority for him in the next session.

‘For more than four decades, CEQA has protected California communities and preserved our wildlife habitat, our farmlands and the natural treasures of this state,” Steinberg said in a statement. ‘But like any well-intentioned law in existence for more than 40 years, changes are needed to eliminate abuses. We must ensure CEQA is used to protect our environment through a more efficient and timely process.”


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento