Governor’s Passion For Legislative CEQA Reform Has Waned, Contra Costa Times Reports After Mercury News Interview

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On August 15, 2014, the Contra Costa Times reported on a wide-ranging interview of California Governor Jerry Brown conducted by the Mercury News opinion and editorial board on that same date. While largely devoted to other topics (such as the CPUC scandal, Brown’s twin-tunnel Delta plan, and the state budget), the article interpreted Brown’s responses to questions asked about CEQA as “suggest[ing] that comprehensive reform of the California Environmental Quality Act, long one of his top priorities, is all but dead.”

Whether the Governor’s apparent change of heart is the result of a rebounding economy (making CEQA abuses more “tolerable”) or election-year political considerations, or some combination of these and other factors, is unknown. In any event, the Times reported Brown indicated that “his hopes [to take up CEQA reform if re-elected] have dimmed significantly” and that “[while] [h]e wouldn’t say CEQA reform is dead,… he compared hurdles in changing the law to revising the Catholic Church’s persistent opposition to birth control.” Governor Brown was quoted as stating: “Once you start to fiddle with the theology of CEQA, you get into difficulties.”

Whether the Governor is having a crisis of faith, election year jitters, or is simply tired of banging his head against the wall on legislative CEQA reform, his use of religious metaphors in describing CEQA is not new; as readers of this blog will recall, he has called legislative CEQA reform “the Lord’s work” and he also highlighted CEQA reform as a top priority in his 2013 “State of the State” address. (See, “Are Courts Actively Limiting CEQA’s Scope In The Absence Of Meaningful Legislative Reform?” by Arthur F. Coon, posted August 31, 2012; “CEQA Reform Goal Is Noted In Governor’s State of the State Address,” by Arthur F. Coon, posted February 1, 2013.)

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