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For Immediate Release, January 28, 2009

Contact: Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938

Republican Legislators Use State Budget Fight to
Attack California's Environmental Laws, Again

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Republican members of the California state legislature have proposed a measure to gut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as part of ongoing negotiations over the state budget crisis. The proposal would effectively eliminate the requirement under CEQA to analyze the impacts of new sources of greenhouse gas emissions and would apply retroactively.

“The proposal would gut the California Environmental Quality Act’s ability to minimize greenhouse gas emissions from new development and pollution sources,” said Matt Vespa, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The measure would completely eliminate the enforceability of CEQA to require projects to disclose and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The California Environmental Quality Act is the state’s premier land-use planning and environmental law, requiring state and local agencies to assess and reduce environmental impacts of new projects. The law requires new sources, from oil refineries to housing developments, to consider all feasible measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“The governor’s office, the legislature, and the courts have all recognized the California Environmental Quality Act’s role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vespa. “Given the severity of the global warming crisis, it is unconscionable that state Republicans are attempting to rob California of a critical tool to combat global warming in exchange for a state budget.”

Known as a legislative rider — because the proposal would be inserted into larger, unrelated legislation — the CEQA exemption is one of a number of riders proposed by Republicans, presumably in exchange for their potential support of state budget legislation. The current proposal is similar to a measure introduced by state Senate Republicans into the state budget negotiations in July 2007.

The following is the text of the rider in full, as leaked on January 23:

CEQA Greenhouse Gas Litigation Relief

Section 21097.5 of the Public Resources Code is added to read:

21097.5. (a) The failure to analyze adequately or to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions in an environmental impact report, negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration or other document required pursuant to this division for any proposed project does not create a cause of action for violation of this division.

(b) This section shall apply retroactively to an environmental impact report, negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or other document required pursuant to this division that has not become final.

(c) This section shall remain in effect only until the final regulations specifying greenhouse gas reduction measures adopted by the Air resources Board pursuant to section 38562 of the Health and Safety Code become operative and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute deletes or extends that date.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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