Dan Walters: Reforming CEQA Still Vital Work

The California Environmental Quality Act, signed into law more than 40 years ago, is a perfect example of how a political decree meant to do one thing can transmogrify into something else entirely.

CEQA was meant to compel state and local officials to catalog, and mitigate where possible, the adverse environmental effects of public works and private developments.

Ultimately, however, it became at best a legal morass and at worst a tool of legal extortion, often for motives that have nothing to do with the environment, such as forcing businesses to unionize. And that misuse, in turn, has spawned a form of crony capitalism as governors gained authority to “streamline” the CEQA process for some projects.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who once declared, “I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption I don’t like,” has been particularly prone to fast-tracking favored projects under 2011 legislation he signed over the objections of environmental groups.

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