New Proposals from California Governor: Will CEQA Be Fixed? Or Will it Get More Complex and Unwieldy?

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The California Governor’s Office is seeking input on their proposals to update the CEQA Guidelines by October 12, 2015.   They have released a discussion draft – which is a pre-regulatory process to get input on some of the proposals before actually proposing them in a formal rulemaking.   A copy of the preliminary discussion draft, along with other background information, is available here:

The CEQA Guidelines provide the regulatory rules for the preparation of environmental review documents for all public and private development proposals (e.g., facility expansions, pipeline realignments, and ever more miniscule projects (e.g., placement of basketball court in a residential backyard), and soon perhaps for the choice of chemicals/raw materials and ingredients in consumer products sold in California).

Given the rise of an enormous array of environmental rules  – and enormous number of environmental reviews conducted – at all levels and agencies of federal, state, regional and local government, some of the proposed changes are directed toward reducing the obvious duplication and repetition that has been building up over the decades and clogging up, rampantly throughout the State.

The proposals also address, among other topics, the perennially-challenged issue of the proper baseline for CEQA analysis, beefs up the water supply analysis requirements in light of the drought, requires more information in the energy impacts analysis, broadens the emergency exemption, allow for more deferral of mitigation measures, adds more flexibility for selection of a lead agency, muddies the distinction between ministerial and discretionary acts by public agencies, and gives some license to courts to save projects even if the CEQA analysis is flawed.  Of course, no CEQA reform proposal would be complete without a strong nod favoring that shibboleth of shibboleths, public-transit oriented projects.  New bike lanes also receive loving treatment in this proposal.