Orange County Branch Newsletter

February 2013


Senator Rubio: Making CEQA Modernization a Priority to Expedite Project Delivery

From Mobility 21's  Forward Motion  newsletter

California State Senator Michael J. Rubio (D-Shafter), Chair of the Environmental Quality Committee, answers Mobility 21’s questions this month on his plans to modernize the California Environmental Quality Act.

M21: How do you plan to tackle updating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)  in 2013?

SR: We are in the process of taking input from all parts of the state and gathering case studies to determine, most importantly, where CEQA has worked well and where it has been abused or been used to obstruct projects that would actually benefit the public health and environment. Working closely with Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, we are striving to arrive at a framework of meaningful CEQA improvements that would help accomplish the state’s goals of supporting sustainable communities and well planned regions. As the incoming Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, we will have a robust discussion to determine the best ways of accomplishing this, while also preserving the best elements of CEQA, such as direct public comment and access opportunities so that we may continue to protect California’s valuable natural resources.

M21: How will transportation projects factor into your analysis of needed updates to CEQA?

SR: All projects—transportation and otherwise—are being looked at to see how CEQA is currently working. For instance, the Metro Expo Line Extension in Los Angeles, connecting Santa Monica to downtown, comes to mind as a great example of how transportation projects would benefit from our effort to update this important law. Large public infrastructure projects like these tend to be those that are most likely to be challenged, so there needs to a process to ensure that both large and small environmentally-friendly and job-creating projects stay on track.

M21: What can the transportation industry do to assist your efforts to achieve meaningful reforms?

SR: I would suggest that representatives from the transportation industry engage in the CEQA update efforts and forward any ideas you might have on what can be done to expedite transportation projects, as well as sending our office any case studies you might have on where CEQA has worked well or been abused in your area of expertise.

M21: Duplication of environmental reviews is a serious concern for financially strapped public agencies; would you support efforts to substitute California’s environmental rules for federal rules where CEQA meets or exceeds federal requirements?

SR: Duplication of regulations, rules and permits is an ongoing challenge, as is coordinating with the federal government, but this coordination could also certainly be the conduit for solutions. For example, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is attempting to plan with local, state and federal departments within a region that have a stated interest and will be necessary to permit renewable energy projects in the California desert. This type of proactive planning with upfront coordination with the federal government is where I have seen these challenges best addressed. California already leads the nation in many cases, though this then requires us to engage in the collective task of bringing others along. I believe we can coordinate with the federal government, but substituting our regulations for theirs would be a much more monumental endeavor requiring federal law changes. We are working strictly at the state level at this point and hope to implement changes that minimize the potential impacts of juxtaposed state and federal regulations.

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