How Sensible CEQA Reforms are Essential to Boosting California’s Clean Infrastructure and Innovation Economy

This week, a series of hearings are being held in Sacramento as members of the Assembly and Senate evaluate a package of reforms recently proposed by California Governor Newsom to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA has been credited with protecting California’s natural resources and public health – yet it has also caused a morass of delays, increased costs, and legal uncertainty for essential infrastructure projects. 

The time for action is now. As the leading organization representing the innovation economy and its ecosystem, SVLG supports the Governor’s proposals to streamline CEQA. These clean infrastructure projects – like water, clean transportation projects like Zero Emission Vehicle charging infrastructure and rail upgrades, clean energy and semiconductor or microelectronic research and development facilities – will promote jobs, strengthen California’s competitiveness, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed reforms are essential to position California to compete not only for federal dollars but also private-sector investments at a time of great economic volatility and uncertainty.

However, we also recognize that CEQA reform is not a simple or easy task. It requires balancing the interests of a wide swathe of stakeholders – including environmentalists, labor unions, business associations, community organizations, and local governments. It also requires ensuring that the environmental review process remains rigorous, transparent, and accountable. 

That is why we support the Governor’s proposals to speed up construction, expedite court review, and streamline permitting for certain projects that meet specific criteria . These proposals are based on best practices and lessons learned from previous CEQA streamlining efforts – such as those for infill development, renewable energy projects, and sports stadiums – which SVLG has supported. They are also consistent with the recommendations of the Infrastructure Advisor to California, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and California Forward.

We believe that the Governor’s proposals represent common sense reforms that could help to unleash innovation currently hamstrung by the current system. They could also help California achieve its ambitious climate goals faster and more efficiently. We urge the Legislature to approve these proposals and work with the Governor to implement them as soon as possible.

— By Tim McRae, SVP, Sustainable Growth, SVLG