SACRAMENTO -- A day after Gov. Jerry Brown said overhauling California’s environmental laws was unlikely this year, the leader of the state Senate said Wednesday the effort is very much alive in the Legislature and he thinks it can be accomplished by year's end.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his bill to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is moving forward and he looks forward to talking to Brown now that the governor has returned from a trade mission in China.
"The Legislature is hard at work on CEQA reform,” Steinberg told reporters. "As soon as the governor gets back, I’m going to sit down with him and go over specific provisions of the bill.”
He said his SB 731 could help with a proposal to build a new sports arena in Sacramento’s downtown by expanding the definition of infill development eligible for streamlined environmental review.
The bill is scheduled to come up May 1 in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “I’m confident the bill is going to move,” Steinberg said.
Some environmental and labor groups are “nervous” about the changes he is proposing, Steinberg admitted, but he said, “They trust me to tread the middle path.”
The danger in waiting another year is that a more dramatic scaleback of environmental reforms might be proposed by others, perhaps on the ballot. Citing a bill introduced last year by former Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), Steinberg said the state environmental law "was close to being gutted last year.”
The senate leader also released a letter Wednesday from business groups including the California Chamber of Commerce and California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. supporting his bill at a time when they say lawsuits and red-tape are bogging down development projects.
“We believe the time has come to modernize CEQA to address these challenges,” the letter said. “SB 731 sets forth an ambitious agenda to bring stakeholders from all sides together to discuss how that can be best accomplished.’’