Senator Jerry Hill Appointed to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. CEQA Bills of Interest

Senator Jerry Hill was appointed to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on March 6, 2013, to replace Senator Michael Rubio, who resigned at the end of February.

The committee considers bills on CEQA, water and air pollution, toxic materials and other environmental concerns.

Senator Hill served in the Assembly from 2008-2012 and joined the state Senate last year. He previously served as a member of the San Mateo City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

“(Hill) is well-positioned to appreciate the complexities of this challenge, and well-versed in the false dichotomy that pitches business against the environment,” Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said while announcing the appointment. “California has led, and will continue to lead the nation in smart, environmentally sustainable economic growth.”

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee may consider the following CEQA-related bills:

AB 37 (Perea) would require the lead agency, at the project applicant’s request, to prepare a record of proceedings concurrently with the preparation of negative declarations, mitigated negative declarations, EIR’s, and other environmental documents for specified projects. AB 37 would amend Section 21167.6 of the Public Resources Code and repeal Section 21167.6.2.

AB 515 (Dickinson) would establish a CEQA compliance division of the Superior Court in any county in which the Attorney General maintains an office, and would vest the division with original jurisdiction over CEQA actions and joined matters related to land use and other environmental laws. AB 515 would add Section 25536.3 to the Government Code.

AB 823 (Eggman) would instruct lead agencies to require mitigation measures which provide replacement acreage to ensure agricultural production capacity for projects that convert agricultural lands for nonagricultural uses. AB 823 would add Section 21095.5 to the Public Resources Code.

AB 953 (Ammiano) would revise the definitions of “environment” and “significant effect on the environment”, and require lead agencies to include a detailed statement in the EIR of any significant effects that may result from locating a proposed project near, or attracting people to, existing or reasonably foreseeable natural hazards or adverse environmental conditions. AB 953 would amend Sections 21060.5, 21068 and 2110 of the Public Resources Code.

AB 1323 (Mitchell) would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would reduce the time and expense associated with the environmental review of qualifying wind energy projects without affecting the required environmental studies and required mitigation of those studies.

SB 436 (Jackson) would require a lead agency to conduct at least one public scoping meeting for specified projects and to provide notice to specified entities of at least one public scoping meeting. This bill would also require the notices to be posted on the Office of Planning and Research website and the lead agency’s website, respectively. SB 436 would amend Sections 21083.9, 21092, 21108, and 21152 of the Public Resources Code.

SB 525 (Galgiani) would provide that a project by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and the California High-Speed Rail Authority to improve the existing track and structures on the railroad right-of-way used by the Altamont Commuter Express service qualifies for an exemption from CEQA. SB 525 would amend Section 21080 of the Public Resources Code.

SB 617 (Evans) would affect the timing and posting of CEQA related notices through the State Clearinghouse, alter certain CEQA exemptions, alter the definition of Climate Readiness, and affect Tribal Notification. SB 617 would, among other changes, amend Sections 21060.5, 21068, 21080.5, 21083.9, 21092, 21092.2, 21092.3, 21100, 21108, 21152, and 21161; and repeal Sections 21080.01, 21080.02, 21080.03, and 21080.04 of the Public Resources Code.

SB 731 (Steinberg) would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation revising CEQA to, among other things, provide greater certainty for smart infill development, streamline the law for specified projects, and establish a threshold of significance for specified impacts. This bill is currently in outline form and is expected to be significantly amended this year or next year.

SB 787 (Berryhill) is a reintroduction of last year’s proposals by Senator Rubio. SB 787 adds Division 13.6 (commencing with Section 21200) to the Public Resources Code.