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July 7, 2010

For More Information, Contact:
Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – With less than three months to go in the Legislature’s two-year session, State Senator Joe Simtian (D-Palo Alto) has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 1456) to streamline the state’s environmental review process without weakening essential protections.

In the current economic climate, a number of legislative proposals to roll back the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been introduced in the Legislature. In his role as Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Simitian has consistently opposed such measures.

“They pose a false choice,” said Simitian. “It’s not a case of jobs or the environment.  We can streamline the review process, put people to work, and still protect the environment.”

While ensuring that the environmental impacts of projects are thoroughly studied, SB 1456 would make it harder to abuse the CEQA review process to delay or defeat worthy projects. 

The CEQA law will be stronger, said Simitian, when opponents cannot credibly attack it as a tangle of red tape, or an opportunity to file frivolous lawsuits.

“This bill makes it more likely that people will sit down and work out their differences, and not engage in costly and time-consuming litigation,” Simitian said. “And if a challenge is taken to court, it will be resolved more quickly,” as a result of the legislation.

Major provisions of the bill:

      • Anyone filing a lawsuit to contest an environmental impact report (EIR) would be able to request mediation with the government agency reviewing the project and with the project’s private-sector developer, if there is one.

      • An organization suing to overturn approval of an EIR would have to include at least one member who had claimed before the approval that the review was deficient.

      • The state Attorney General would be authorized to intervene in a CEQA-related lawsuit to seek a faster review in court.

      • A judge would be able to impose a penalty of up to $10,000 if a lawsuit is found to be frivolous.

      • Government bodies considering the adequacy of EIRs would have more latitude to decide that certain issues do not need to be restudied as projects are modified.

      • The provisions would sunset in 2016, to ensure that the Legislature reviews their effectiveness and decides whether to continue them.

For years, builders, developers and the unions that work with them have expressed frustration with CEQA. In contrast, environmentalists have seen CEQA protection as key to preserving the state’s environment and quality of life.

“After saying ‘no’ to a series of ill-conceived proposals,” Simitian said, “I thought I ought to figure out what I could responsibly say ‘yes’ to. The public rightfully expects us to solve problems, not draw partisan or ideological lines in the sand.” Simitian said he was gratified that the bill’s first evaluation, a 9-0 bipartisan vote in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, went so well.

“I’m sure that the developers will want me to go further,” said Simitian, “but I think we’ve found the sweet spot – a commonsense way to expedite worthy projects and create jobs without compromising environmental quality.”

Simitian noted that in his years in office he has typically enjoyed 100 percent approval ratings from environmental groups. No environmental groups are opposing SB 1456. “Making environmental regulations work more efficiently,” he said, “strengthens the case that regulations are not in conflict with a robust economy.”

Senate Bill 1456 was originally introduced as a minor technical measure. Simitian substantially amended the bill recently, “in the hope that we could make real progress before the session ends in August.”

For more information on Simitian’s legislation, visit