As environmentalists and Democrats delay crucial fire prevention programs, deadly fires sweep through California

 

Last updated 10/1/2020 at 5:27pm



SACRAMENTO – In 2018, the Butte Fire Safe Council determined that Berry Creek was in a high–risk fire area and secured $836,365 in grant funding to cut back roadside vegetation, clear evacuation routes and create fuel breaks in ridge-top areas – approximately 120 acres of vegetation would be cleared.

The California Environmental Quality Act delayed the clearing of 120 acres of dry brush by 18 months.

“We lost another community because of powerful environmental extremists and inaction of the Newsom administration and the California Legislature on CEQA reform,” state Sen. Jim Nelson, R Tehama, said in a press release, Sept. 22. “Anger doesn’t begin to describe my reaction to this nonsense. Delays caused by CEQA resulted in human and animal lives lost, billions in property damage and triggered millions of dollars of state spending that could have applied elsewhere,” he said.

Looking back to 2009, Democrats have used legislation to streamline or exempt projects from CEQA that either built sporting arenas and stadiums for billionaires, mandated union labor or required approval from the governor. During that same time, Republicans introduced CEQA reforms, trying to address issues with levees, dams, access roads for residents to use during an emergency, water quality protection, housing and forest management. Many of the proposals were either killed in committee or pulled by the author knowing that their bill was going to die.


Republican CEQA Reform Legislation

AB 2444 (Gallagher, 2020) – Exempts from CEQA projects that thin vegetation and trees that are exhibiting signs of disease or pest infestation, by mechanical thinning, piling, pile burning, chipping, prescribed fire, cultural fire or grazing. It was never heard in committee.

SB 1289 (Chang, 2020) – Exempts specific housing projects from CEQA. The Senate environmental quality committee failed to set the bill.

AB 231 (Mathis, 2019) – Exempts from CEQA a project to mitigate drought conditions for which a state of emergency has been declared by the governor. It would apply to recycled water pipelines and groundwater replenishment. The bill failed in the Assembly Natural Resources committee.

AB 394 (Obernolte, 2019) – Exempts egress routes near a residential subdivision from CEQA. This only applies to projects where the egress route is specifically recommended as an action to improve fire safety by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the community currently has insufficient egress routes. It was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.


AB 431 (Gallagher, 2019) – Exempts the following activities from CEQA: improvement of evacuation routes from Paradise, a sewer system for Paradise and projects to provide water service in Paradise. It was pulled from hearing.

AB 1901 (Obernolte, 2018) – Extends the sunset date to Jan. 1, 2023, on an existing exemption to CEQA for specified projects that make repairs, provide maintenance or minor alterations to roadways. It was pulled from a hearing in the Senate Environmental Quality committee.

AB 3020 (Flora, 2018) – Would have exempted projects that mitigate an emergency or reduce the threat or intensity of a wildfire from CEQA. It was pulled before hearing.

AB 1273 (Gallagher, 2017) – Exempts from CEQA, until July 1, 2023, the repair of critical levees of the State Plan of Flood Control that are within an existing levee footprint and undertaken in order to meet public health and safety standards. It failed in the Senate Natural Resources committee.

AB 1589 (Mathis, 2016) – Creates a CEQA Exemption for projects to mitigate the drought for which the governor has proclaimed a state of emergency. It failed in the Assembly Natural Resources committee.

AB 2438 (Waldron, 2016) – Exempts from CEQA the installation of new recycled water pipelines of less than 8 miles in length within a paved public street, highway or right of way. It failed in the Senate EQ committee.

AB 2578 (Bigelow, 2016) – Expands an existing CEQA exemption for water distribution pipeline repairs that address water leakage. It creates a new CEQA exemption for projects undertaken by a local agency in response to a drought that are necessary to acquire water supplies, extend service, or provide water for drinking and sanitation to individuals and communities with groundwater wells that have run dry or where the only available groundwater exceeds primary or secondary drinking water standards. It was pulled from hearing.


AB 311 (Gallagher, 2015) – Streamlines CEQA litigation review for specified major surface water storage projects funded by Proposition 1, “The Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, by requiring resolution within 370 days, including appeals. It failed in the Assembly Natural Resources committee.

SB 240 (Stone, 2015) – Provides a CEQA exemption for specified renewable energy projects of limited duration on disturbed land that provides electric service through the Local Government Renewable Self–Generation Program. It failed in the Senate EQ committee.

SB 389 (Berryhill, 2015) – Creates the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act which integrates newer and more objective environmental and planning laws into the CEQA review process. It failed in the senate EQ committee.

SB 487 (Nielsen, 2015) – Provides several important CEQA exemptions for the formation of groundwater sustainability agencies, the preparation, adoption and amendment of a groundwater sustainability plan, and a project that implements a plan or coordinated plan under the state's new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It was pulled from hearing.

SB 11 X1 (Berryhill, 2015) – Creates a CEQA exemption for minor roadway repairs that do not lead to a significant change in an existing use and are not near a waterway or wetland. Committee never set for hearing.

AB 1849 (Logue, 2014) – Exempt from the requirements of CEQA, the maintenance, repair or replacement of an existing levee. It was pulled from hearing.

SB 787 (Berryhill, 2013) – Integrates newer and objective environmental and planning laws into the California Environmental Quality Act review process. It failed in the senate EQ committee.

Democrat CEQA Legislation

Note: A legislative bill is “chaptered” by the Secretary of State once it passes through both houses of the California State Legislature and has either been signed by the governor or has become law without the governor’s signature. The secretary of state assigns a sequential chapter number to all bills that become law.

SB 450 (Umberg, 2019) – Exempts projects that convert existing motels or hotels into supportive or transitional housing facilities from CEQA. Chaptered.

AB 734 (Bonta, 2018) – Provides for streamlined judicial review under CEQA for the Oakland Athletics Sports and Mixed–Use Project. Chaptered.

AB 987 (Kamlager–Dove, 2018) – Provides streamlined judicial review under CEQA for the development of the Los Angeles Clippers Arena and related infrastructure. Chaptered.

AB 1826 (Budget, 2018) – Provides streamlines CEQA review to a visitor center that is part of the Capitol Annex project. Chaptered.

AB 246 (Santiago, 2017) – Extends the sunset date from Jan. 1, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2020, by which the Governor has to certify a project as an environmental leadership project that is eligible for streamlining under CEQA. Chaptered.

SB 734 (Galgiani, 2016) – Extends an expedited CEQA litigation review process in Assembly Bill 900 for two years for qualifying projects. It establishes a new requirement that projects using this expedited litigation review process must pay construction workers at least the prevailing wage and requires multifamily residential projects to sell parking unbundled from the residential units. Chaptered.


SB 836 (Budget, 2016) – Provides streamlined CEQA review to the Capitol Annex project. Chaptered.

SB 1008 (Lara, 2016) – Extends an exemption under CEQA until Jan. 1, 2020, for the design, site acquisition, construction and operation of antennae and other radio equipment within the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System that meet specified criteria. Chaptered.

SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013) – Streamlines the CEQA and eminent domain process to speed the development of a downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings. Chaptered.

AB 900 (Buchanan, 2011) – Creates prospectively, an optional, streamlined judicial review in CEQA for certain high–level projects certified by the governor before sun-setting Jan. 1, 2015. Chaptered.

SB 292 (Padilla, 2011) – Streamlines CEQA administrative and judicial review of the environmental impact report and approvals granted for a project related to the development of a proposed National Football League stadium (Farmers Field) in the city of Los Angeles. Chaptered.

AB 81 X3 (Hall, 2009) – Provides a special exemption from CEQA, for the construction of a new NFL sports complex within the City of Industry (Majestic Realty). Chaptered.

The list of Republican and Democrat bills is not an exhaustive list.

Submitted by the Senate Republican Caucus.

 

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