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Op-Ed: Protect the Environment and Grow the Economy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

San Jose Mercury News

Next year, California’s population will surpass 40 million. That’s twice as many people as were here in 1970 when the state passed its landmark resource protection law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CEQA, which governs the environmental review process for most construction and infrastructure projects, has been at the heart of some notable achievements, such as saving Mono Lake and looking at the cumulative impacts of proposed development. While the law has protected the environment by improving planning processes and stopping many ill-conceived projects, critics can fairly point to cases where competitors have used it to obstruct projects, even where the environmental benefits and job creation opportunities were obvious.

Forty years later, it’s time to make changes to CEQA to better align the law that governs most growth decisions in the state with 21st century challenges, like climate change and how to support a rapidly growing population.

One such reform is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk now. He should sign it.

Senate Bill 226 by Senators Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, allows infill projects—that is, projects within already-developed areas—that meet state-of-the-art environmental standards to take advantage of a streamlined review process. The bill rewards applicants whose projects have the best environmental features with faster and lower cost approval, and it provides other projects with a meaningful incentive to improve. It also eliminates duplicative levels of review, eliminating waste and allowing sponsors of infill projects to take advantage of previous environmental analyses and rely on good local planning.

View the full story (San Jose Mercury News)