Senate Bill 973, otherwise known as the “Save Our Events” Act, would exempt annual fireworks displays from CEQA. The CEQA Guidelines include a list of project classes that have been determined not to have a significant effect on the environment. SB 973 authorizes a lead agency to grant, on an annual basis, one categorical exemption per site for a fireworks display. The bill would thereby impose a state-mandated local program. SB 973 would authorize the office of Planning and Research to identify potential environmental issues related to fireworks displays and to develop guidelines to assist local agencies regarding those displays.
According to Senator Juan Vargas, who fought to pass the bill, “CEQA was not created to allow frivolous lawsuits to ban family and charitable events like parades and fireworks on the Fourth of July.” However, the bill’s narrowness may be fatal to its support. The limited application of SB 973 was intended to be a temporary, politically palatable compromise during negotiations, but Vargas and other supporters now say that if they cannot get broader exemptions they would rather abandon the bill.