ECOPOLITICS - The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970. CEQA requires extensive study and mitigations (corrections) of environmental impacts for both public and private development projects. This is typically a rather lengthy and costly process, which significantly increases the cost of housing and infrastructure in the state. California is one of just three states to subject private and public development to such strict scrutiny.
Almost anyone can file a CEQA lawsuit against any new development EIR (Environmental Impact Report) they dislike. Plaintiffs win half of the lawsuits they file, and when they lose they do not pay the defendants’ legal fees. Whereas, plaintiffs get their legal fees paid by losing defendants. Petty, obsessional, partisan, arbitrary, capricious, myopic, sentimental, litigious, narcissistic, non-scientific and radical-green eco-group motivations too often prevail in CEQA issues. And, project delays and expenses only accumulate as planning agency and environmental groups pile on precedent, yet gratuitous, mitigation measures.
Homebuilders are forced to hire expensive unionized labor to ward off union bosses’ threats of spurious CEQA lawsuits. Business competition has shops and gas stations filing CEQA lawsuits to prevent competitors from building in their business territory. Residential subdivision EIRs may take five years in processing, be more than 300 pages long, and cost as much as half a million more dollars.
Not all interests are equal under CEQA laws. And, special interests have used CEQA to serve their special interests, which have nothing to do with environmental protections. Militant labor unions hold projects hostage through CEQA lawsuits -- demanding concessions such as the imposition of project labor agreements mandating the use of union labor that only drives up construction costs. Businesses use CEQA to keep out potential competitors, and local governments and neighborhood groups use the law as leverage to compel developers to build additional facilities or features on their wish lists. Such abuses of CEQA have been dubbed “greenmail.” (PE.com, July 2, 2015)
The CEQA EIR process has become a government-sanctioned playground for trivial lawsuits, environmentalist exploitation, political patronage and pageantry. CEQA has been amended hundreds of times, mostly by partisan “green” special interests. Sadly, reform of CEQA with more objective and rational provisions has not succeeded.
(Paul Taylor is an Environmental Scientist, Author, Speaker and court-qualified Expert Witness who has been solving environmental problems for over 25 years. This article originally appeared in the LA Examiner.)
Vol 13 Issue 57
Pub: Jul 14, 2015