CEQA SURVIVES LEGISLATIVE SESSION...FOR NOW!
As we celebrate Independence Day and, with it, the July Legislative recess, PCL is proud to report the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has survived the legislative session, coming out relatively unscathed. This is somewhat surprising since more than 20 bills that sought to streamline, exempt or otherwise weaken California’s preeminent environmental law were introduced for projects small, large and larger (e.g., High Speed Rail) during the Legislative session. Because of opposition from the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), other environmental groups, and many Legislative insiders, the vast majority of these bills have either been defeated or amended significantly to limit their long-term effect on CEQA.
Thanks, especially, goes to Legislative Leadership – Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Speaker of the Assembly Pérez. Throughout the session, Legislative Leadership maintained their position that changes made to CEQA last year should be assessed before pursuing additional amendments this session. PCL would also like to thank all those in the Legislature who stood strong for the importance of CEQA in protecting our lands, air, waters and communities.
Of course, just because CEQA made it through this session fairly intact (thus far at least) does not mean that we have been 100% successful in our efforts to protect CEQA, or that additional threats don’t remain. For instance, AB 1073, which provides a CEQA exemption for the large-scale and highly-contentious Calico solar project, has already been signed into law. There also remain several CEQA-related bills which the Legislature will take up upon their return in August. Additionally, there is always the risk that ‘gut-and-amend’ CEQA legislation could be introduced in the waning days of the session (which concludes August 31), as was done last year. In fact, there are rumblings at least one bill that aims to provide CEQA exemptions or streamlining for some of California’s largest infrastructure projects – including the proposed Delta conveyance – will be introduced shortly after the Legislature reconvenes on August 6. PCL will be there to keep you informed if and when such a threat arises, and, of course, to fight for the integrity of CEQA.
DELAYED AGAIN? SENATE COMMITTEE VOTES TO PUSH WATER BOND TO 2014
Earlier this week, the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1422
(Perea), a bill which delays the 2012 Water Bond until the November 2014 ballot without making any changes to the content of the bond. The committee initially rejected a motion by Senator Wolk (D-Davis) to repeal the bond altogether. The Senator had indicated that the bond ignores vital aspects of the water situation while providing too much funding to pork barrel projects unconnected to water.
If AB 1422 passes, and is signed by the Governor, it will be the second time the $11.14 billion bond measure has be delayed. Since its 2009 inception, many groups - including PCL - deemed this measure too expensive and not focused on the right water priorities for the state. These critiques have only grown stronger during the last three years in light of California’s economic climate and daunting budget deficits. Last year, even Governor Brown indicated that, in its current form, the bond “simply won’t pass.”
Now, two years after the bond was first delayed, we are experiencing a serious case of déjà vu. The economy is still off track, deficits remain high and the bond continues to have a hefty price tag. In addition, the politics – at least from the Administration’s perspective – have gotten even worse since Governor Brown certainly does not want the bond competing with his proposed tax measure on the November ballot. Considering all these factors, the Legislature and the Governor are almost certain to approve the Water Bond delay.
What this means for the long-term future of the bond, however, remains an open question.
Assuming the bond is delayed until 2014; by that time many of the strategies and programs in the bond will have either been completed or become outdated, necessitating a rewrite of the measure. Unlike the simple majority needed to delay the bond, revising the measure would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Such a super-majority is especially difficult (some would argue virtually impossible) considering the contentiousness of the measure as well as the political climate in the Capitol, though the latter could be impacted by November’s election.
Sadly, this means California’s water future, which does need an infusion of resources for sustainable water planning, is still very much in doubt. As daunting as this challenge is, PCL will do all it can to work with the Legislature, the Administration and our partner to re-craft and pass a Water Bond that invests in water reliability as well as ecosystem protection and enhancement.
PCL RECEIVES CHARITABLE BEQUEST
The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) is pleased to announce a generous bequest to our organization from the Estate of Scott Fleming. We would like to thank the Fleming family for this generous donation which is especially critical in these challenging economic times.
Mr. Fleming, an ardent conservationist, was involved in founding both the Planning and Conservation League and California Native Plant Society. He and his wife Jenny always enjoyed the outdoors; the two cultivated a backyard botanical garden containing many rare native species at their home in North Berkeley. Scott’s passions also included white-water kayaking, hiking and camping.
A true ‘renaissance man’, Mr. Fleming served as an officer in World War II and received a law degree from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley before helping form the Kaiser-Permanente Health Program during the 1940s in his quest to ensure accessible and affordable health care for all. Scott, who was born in 1923 and passed away on July 7 of last year, is survived by his daughters India and Hillary.
PCL cannot express how appreciative we are of this bequest, and for everything Mr. Fleming and his family have done for PCL and for California’s natural resources through the years.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can include PCL in your estate plan and leave a legacy of stewardship, please visit our website
Photo courtesy of The San Francisco Chronicle.
WELCOME TO “NEW” PCL STAFFER!
Evon Willhoff has joined the PCL team to head our water programs! Well, Evon is not actually new to PCL – but her surname is. It is with great pleasure that we announce that Evon Willhoff, formerly Evon Chambers, was married to Steven Willhoff on June 23, 2012. Evon’s email has changed to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org - please update your contact list accordingly.