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Get the latest expert analysis on California's enacted environmental legislation. The article describes recent California legislation addressing climate change, air quality, energy and fuels, water quality and supply, hazardous waste, land use, environmental quality (CEQA), solid waste and recycling, sustainability, and natural resources.
In June 2012, Sacramento reached an on-time budget for the third time in the past two decades thanks to an improving economy and deep cuts to health and welfare programs. Facing another yawning gap for the next fiscal year, Governor Brown made Proposition 30 his top priority for the November 2012 election. With an 11 point margin, the voters approved Proposition 30, which authorizes additional tax revenues for the next five years. Had it failed, the state would have faced another $6 billion in cuts borne largely by schools and welfare programs. The passage of Proposition 30, combined with the unexpected Democratic victories yielding a supermajority in both legislative houses, has allowed Democrats to put the decades of political gridlock behind them.
The legislative performance on environmental laws was much less eventful during the 2011-2012 legislative session. While blocking much of the legislation advanced by the environmental community, the industrial community was unsuccessful in passing business-friendly legislation. The most noteworthy example was the failure to fashion reform to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In the eleventh hour of the 2011-2012 legislative session, business interests allied with union leaders came together in an effort to reform CEQA. This coalition, known as the CEQA Working Group, succeeded in "gutting and amending" SB 317 (Rubio). This revised bill was designed to exempt from CEQA those projects that meet environmental and land use regulatory requirements. Environmental groups were able to defeat SB 317 in the final weeks of the legislative session.
Notwithstanding strong Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the environmental community was unable to deliver on many of their other environmental priorities. Despite the dearth of significant new laws, the Legislature kept busy tinkering around the edges with the mechanics of existing environmental laws and offering some interesting new developments regarding climate change, energy, water quality and water supply, solid waste and recycling, land use, and mining law. Most of these laws took effect on January 1, 2013, except for urgency laws which took effect upon the Governor's signature.
Gary A. Lucks JD CPEA is a partner in the Performance and Assurance Practice of ERM West in Walnut Creek, California, where he advises clients on environmental regulatory compliance, auditing, and sustainability. He is a certified professional environmental auditor and regular instructor at the University of California (U.C.) Berkeley and U.C. Davis Extension Program where he teaches courses on environmental law, legislation, auditing, compliance, and sustainability. He currently serves as an advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and on the California State Bar Environmental Legislation Committee. He also chairs the West Coast Auditing Roundtable. Mr. Lucks has published numerous articles and newsletters addressing environmental legislation and policy and is the coauthor of a book entitled: California Environmental Law and Policy: A Practical Guide.
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