Jackson Introduces Bill To Streamline, Modernize Environmental Review Process

January 16, 2015

Bill Jointly Authored with Senators Hill and Roth Could Shorten CEQA Process by Months or Years
SACRAMENTO – State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has just introduced a bill to streamline and expedite the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California’s landmark law for evaluating and mitigating the environmental impacts of major development projects.
SB 122, which is jointly authored with Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside), seeks to create efficiencies in the environmental review process without undermining the law’s goal of informed environmental decision-making. It is the result of input gathered from a variety of stakeholders – business and environmental groups, local government groups, lawyers, academics, and others – over a number of months following a letter sent in May by the Senate Judiciary and Environmental Quality committees.
“This bill is a modest and practical measure designed to help bring this process into the 21st century, and make it more efficient and more accessible to the public,” said Jackson. “It is not intended to upend or undermine the environmental goals of CEQA in any way. It is also not designed to solve all of the challenges of CEQA. But rather than throw up our hands and do nothing, I believe it’s important that we work on these areas of common agreement, where I’m hoping we can make significant improvements.”
“By working with key stakeholders, Senators Jackson, Hill and I are committed to making common sense modifications to CEQA that make the process more efficient while protecting all Californians.  I look forward to continuing the conversation with all interested parties and my colleagues in the Legislature as SB 122 moves forward,” said Roth.
"My hope is that this bill will streamline the CEQA process while ensuring robust public participation and environmental protection,” said Hill.
SB 122 would improve the process in three ways:
1)    Create an Internet Clearinghouse of all CEQA documents. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research already has an online repository of a limited number of CEQA documents, called CEQAnet. This bill would expand CEQAnet to require it to include all documents, making them easily accessible to the public. This would likely reduce costs and save time and resources.

2)    Save Time and Money Through “Concurrent Preparation of the Administrative Record.” If a construction project is controversial, it is sometimes challenged in court. One of the necessary elements for litigation to move forward is to compile the ‘record of proceedings’ – a written record of all the materials supporting the lead agency’s decision. This can take months to complete. To save time and expense, this bill would allow a lead agency to prepare the record while going through the CEQA process.

3)    Address “Document Dumping.” The submission of documents and information late in the process has been a problem in some CEQA proceedings. This bill would establish new procedures that would preserve the public’s ability to participate while better incorporating late information into decision-making, improving the predictability and efficiency of the process.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.