On Monday, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee voted down SB 1010 by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Anna). The bill would have given judicial immunity from the California Environmental Quality Act to 125 hand-picked projects over the next 5 years, eliminating any ability to enforce this landmark law.
SB 1010 is identical to a separate measure heard by the committee during the special legislative session in February. During that hearing, dozens of environmental, health and labor groups spoke out against the bill, citing negative effects the measure would have on air and water quality, traffic congestion, and open space and parks protection. They also pointed out that giving projects a de facto exemption from CEQA does not create jobs, and that eliminating the right of local residents, cities, and counties to hold developers accountable for the impacts of their projects would significant diminish quality of life across the state without stimulating job growth in any meaningful way. Given the massive public opposition and serious concerns raised by committee members in the February hearing, Senator Correa chose not to seek a vote on that measure.
This week’s hearing was more subdued because this bill was exactly the same as the previous measure. The committee chair, Senator Joe Simitian, offered the bill’s proponents and others an opportunity to present new information, but made it clear that since the measure had not been amended to address concerns it was not likely to be better received – and it wasn’t. The Democratic members present, including senators Alan Lowenthal, Ellen Corbett and Fran Pavley, reaffirmed that protecting communities from pollution and ensuring that new development is thoughtfully planned need not be sacrificed in the name of job growth. They exposed this line of reasoning as a red herring, since undercutting CEQA would not create significant numbers of new jobs.
SB 1010, and three identical measures, are all part of the Governor’s effort to use the state’s budget crisis as an excuse for gutting California’s premier public health and environmental protection law. The Assembly has yet to take up the policy, but we expect a similar bill, AB 1805 by Assembly Member Calderon, to be heard in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 19th. Even if this bill is rejected, we do not expect the policy to go away. In last year’s budget fight, the Governor insisted on giving several projects full exemptions from any environmental review. We can expect the same this year. However, we continue to hope that the Governor will work with the legislature on ways to truly stimulate job growth in the state, rather than continue his fallacious policy of pitting jobs against the environment and health of Californians.