Quality verse

Annual brouhaha over CEQA makes mad flow for this writer

If CEQA stood for “Challenge Everything, Question Authority” instead of California Environmental Quality Act, there probably wouldn't be all this political drama. CEQA would be celebrated. Like YOLO. The Lonely Island might even follow up its “YOLO” song with a CEQA number:

Don’t take no guff or calcified static.

The system’s insane,

got bats in the attic.

Challenge everything!

It’s the right way to go.

Question authority!

Don’t be no button-down schmo.

It’s harder—but not impossible—to build a catchy tune around the California Environmental Quality Act. Apparently, it’s also hard for a legislative session to go by without some major call for CEQA overhaul.

For Republicans and moderate Dems, from the Central Valley and the Inland Em, CEQA’s so unwieldy and so expensive, the delay for projects is too extensive. The more that gets built, more people to employ, add it all together, you get economic joy.

Modernize” is this year’s CEQA revise. Except what modernize means depends on the eyes.

CEQA is supposed to keep the environment strong by examining projects to make sure they aren’t wrong. An impact report scopes the whole situation. If everything’s chill, there’s a negative declaration.

It was a Republican idea back in 1970—even then-Gov. Ronald Reagan believed CEQA was heavenly. Forty years back, talkin’ hot pants and the first Earth Day, way before several members’ of the Assembly birthdays. Internet was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye; say “Text me” or “Google,” and people’d think you were high.

Over the years, CEQA’s stayed largely the same. But in 2013, California’s got a new game.

Now, CEQA just stomps on the bad, it doesn’t reward the good. Isn’t transit-friendly infill better than paving Muir Woods? Maybe a new project already fits a master plan. Doesn’t that deserve a quick CEQA scan?

“Correct,” says Sen. Tom Berryhill, Modesto GOP. “’I’ve got a bill’ makes CEQA like ’one, two and three.’” Do right by the fish and the air and the other laws that protect them, no need to do it again in CEQA, assalamu alaykum.

Quoth Sen. B.: “It’s a job issue for me. My bill’s all about efficiency.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, Berryhill notes, says parts of CEQA need to go, create more “consistent standards” so approval’s not so slow. What exactly’s consistent, Jerry ain’t saying, but he just did a CEQA end run to build some solar arraying.

Berryhill claims his bill makes CEQA more modern. Opponents say he turns logic on its noggin’. Go the Berryhill route and CEQA’s castrated, knowing a project’s overall impact all but negated.

“I enter this debate at some personal peril. Some call me Steinberg. My first name’s Darrell. My CEQA riff is the choicest of all. I’m so on track, everything else smokes crack.”

His goal is CEQA modernization, Steinberg says of his bill. But it’s def modernization, not that dub Berryhill.

Steinberg says infill’s the kind, so a CEQA OK should be less of a grind. If there’s a similar project within short memory, no need to get all supplementary. CEQA gets sleek, California goes long—or so says Darrell—if we start singing his song.

As the head of the Senate, sure, Darrell’s got power. But so far, at least, he’s singing alone in the shower. Enviros dig one part but spew over that. Business groups say bogarting CEQA is phat. Trial lawyers want to sue all parties with ease. If a compromise is found, it can’t Jerry displease.

So what’s to be done, which way will it go? Depends how the wind blows. Too early to know.