CEQA Reform is the Agenda

By Curtis Alling, AICP

To address the recent increase in concerns raised by the Legislature and others about the time, expense, and effectiveness of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, the American Planning Association – California Chapter (APACA) and Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) are assembling a practitioner team to offer recommendations for statutory and regulatory enhancements to CEQA. The group is tentatively called the Enhanced CEQA Action Team (ECAT).

CEQA has recently experienced an increase in proposed amendments that have been counterproductive to sound environmental planning. The mission of this team is to recommend legislative and regulatory changes to enhance CEQA’s efficiency and effectiveness in achieving its original purposes. This mission is founded on the premise that CEQA is an important and constructive element of California public agency decision-making.

Work Product and Timeframe:
ECAT will prepare an action report with recommendations for changes to the CEQA statute and guidelines that are intended to streamline the environmental review process, reduce redundant analysis, reinforce effective public involvement, develop credible information for decision-makers, and support effective environmental protection, consistent with the existing policy purposes of the law. The work will begin in November with a report to be completed by May 2011 which will include a proposed legislative agenda in coordination with the leadership of APACA and AEP.

Organization, Approach, and Leadership:
In 1992, the APACA and AEP jointly formed a CEQA Task Force in response to an earlier cycle of counterproductive legislative proposals to amend the Statute. In 1993, the Task Force produced the report, “Streamlining the California Environmental Quality Act: An Action Agenda.” ECAT is another collaboration of APACA and AEP. With the 1993 agenda as background, the team will build upon prior recommendations to improve CEQA implementation. Team members are highly experienced and deeply involved in implementing CEQA as planners, environmental planners, and attorneys and, therefore, have the unique ability to recommend actions that help make the law operate well for all.

Three co-chairs guide the team, consisting of CEQA experts from APACA and AEP. They are Curtis Alling, AICP, environmental consultant and former chair of the APACA Climate Change Task Force; Pete Parkinson, AICP, APACA’s Legislative and Policy Vice President; and Terry Rivasplata, AICP, AEP’s Environmental Assessor editor.

The membership of the team consists of approximately 15 – 20 professional planners, environmental planners, consultants, and attorneys who are recognized as experts in the practice of CEQA and who support its original policy purposes. They are geographically diverse within the state and include the perspectives of local government, other lead agencies, responsible or trustee agencies, document preparers, and attorneys.

How Can You Help?
Please send your comments/suggestions for changes to CEQA to the emails listed. If you have examples of issues which would help to document why CEQA should be changed please forward those as well to the Chairs.

For Information:
If you would like further information about ECAT, please contact any of the co-chairs:
• Curtis E. Alling, Ascent Environmental, Inc.
[email protected], (916) 930-3181
• Pete Parkinson, Sonoma County
[email protected], (707) 565-1925
• Terry Rivasplata, ICF International
[email protected], (916) 737-3000