What environmental law critics in California get wrong

In summary

The California Environmental Quality Act forces local officials to make prudent decisions, not build recklessly, argues an environmental attorney.

Guest Commentary written by

Aruna Prabhala

Aruna Prabhala is a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Re: “Future of California at risk the longer landmark CEQA environmental law remains unchanged“

The California Environmental Quality Act offers necessary protections for communities and the environment. We should be wary of exaggerated claims by development interests that suggest otherwise.

In the case of Tejon Centennial, a development proposed in the fire-prone outskirts of Los Angeles County, CEQA requires a careful study of wildfire risks and climate impacts. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged this project because the county failed to do so and approved 19,000 homes far from existing cities and on a site that has repeatedly burned. Time and time again, the court agreed with us.

You can call this judicial activism, but I’d call it a demand for our local officials to make prudent decisions.

California’s housing shortage doesn’t give us free rein to build recklessly or put communities in danger. We should tackle the housing crisis by removing restrictive local zoning and requiring cities that resist affordable housing to follow state laws. Watering down CEQA leaves us defenseless against the climate crisis while doing nothing to solve the housing crisis.

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