CEQA Law Meant to Streamline Review of Green Building and Renewable Energy Projects

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is intended to weigh environmental impacts of actions by state agencies and local governments. However, a common complaint is that CEQA has become a powerful tool for slowing down projects with substantial environmental benefits. California Senate bill, SB 375, passed in 2008, promotes greater coordination of regional transportation plans with regional greenhouse gas reduction goals. SB 226 builds on SB 375 by providing CEQA exemptions for rooftop and parking lot solar, and CEQA streamlining for infill development. A California Assembly Bill, AB 900 provides streamlined judicial review for large renewable and infill projects that meet certain environmental performance standards.

Because of the rules encapsulated in the recent legislation, recent CEQA reform will likely benefit only large projects that can bear considerable investment in attorneys and consultants. According to a recent article by Gabriel Schnitzler and Charles E. Jagolinzer of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC “more can and should be done to lighten the CEQA burden on smaller- and medium-sized projects that deploy renewable energy, reduce vehicle miles travelled, are energy efficient, or add density to urban areas.