Californias Latest Attempt to Streamline the California Environmental Quality Act
By A. Catherine Norian, Jill Yung & Ryan Trahan
Senate Bill (SB) 1456, authored by Senator Joe Simitian (DPalo Alto), and Assembly Bill (AB) 231, authored by Assembly Member Alyson Huber (DEl Dorado Hills), were signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2010. As urgency statutes, both bills became effective immediately, and both will sunset as of January 1, 2016. SB 1456, the broader of the two bills, includes several amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) intended to discourage frivolous lawsuits and encourage mediation as a method of settling CEQA disputes prior to the filing of a lawsuit. As discussed, below, both SB 1456 and AB 231 also ease the requirements governing cumulative impacts analyses in certain subsequent environmental impact reports (EIRs), mitigated negative declarations and negative declarations. The stated intent of these bills is to reduce the burdens of the CEQA review process and the abuses of CEQA through litigation, and lessen delays in getting worthy development projects approved and built. When signing the bills, however, the Governor took a less optimistic view.