Support legislation directed at California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) modernization and process reform that expedite project delivery and promote the creation of jobs. Examples include legislation promoting concurrent rather than consecutive environmental review, expedited judicial review of challenges to environmental rulings, and other such acceleration measures. A top legislative priority for 2013, there was much activity through the year for significant CEQA reform, with numerous proposed CEQA reform bills introduced but, the only significant bill passing was SB 743 (Steinberg) dealing principally with expedited development of the new Sacramento Kings arena and entertainment complex, with some statewide provisions to make easier development around Transit Priority Areas consistent with provisions of SB 375.
Continued efforts to enact CEQA modernization legislation to enhance project acceleration are expected in 2014, and these outcomes consistently have been policy objectives approved by the Regional Council through the years and have been part of SCAG’s legislative program for several years. SCAG has worked successfully with its partner organizations at the local and national level to include similar, consistent provisions regarding federal environmental review processes contained within the “Breaking Down Barriers” provisions developed by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) within the surface transportation authorization law, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), passed by Congress in 2012. At SCAG’s December 2012 Economic Summit, prominent economists from throughout the SCAG region analyzed the impacts of accelerating project delivery, moving a 5-year tranche of the 2012–2035 RTP/SCS forward 5 years. This analysis concluded that approximately 300,000 jobs per year would be created or brought forward. Advancing five years of projects would result in a decrease in construction cost by $1.25–1.95B (or 5–9% of construction cost). Staff recommends pursuing this legislative priority in 2014 through partnership with affected local and statewide transportation, business, labor, and environmental stakeholders to more quickly develop projects that will reduce harmful emissions and promote creation of jobs to effectuate continued economic turnaround throughout the region.