CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 01/13/2012

California Environmental Quality Act

AB 890 (Olsen) – Support
As Amended on January 4, 2012

AB 890, by Assembly Member Kristin Olsen, would exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) a project within a city or county’s existing road right-of-way that would improve public safety. The bill also specifically states the exemption does not apply to a project that would increase traffic capacity. 

The measure passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 6-0 vote with amendments. The amendments will exclude projects over waterways, define the existing road right-of-way, and include a 3-year sunset. These were requested by the Chair, Assemble Member Wesley Chesbro, and the environmental community that spoke in opposition to the bill. It is unclear what remaining opposition will exist as the bill moves forward. 

While CSAC supports the goals of CEQA, to inform elected officials, decision-makers, and the public at large about potential environmental impacts from public works projects; and to ensure necessary mitigation; unnecessary environmental review processes increase project delivery times and overall project costs without advancing CEQA’s goals. On major projects, environmental review remains necessary. However, some safety projects, such as installing or replacing a guardrail to address safety concerns on a local street or road, in the existing right-of-way, do not have significant, if any, environmental impacts. Requiring CEQA review on these projects makes the process unnecessarily long and delays important infrastructure improvements that are necessary to protect the safety and well-being of all Californians. As previously mentioned, the proposal would not exempt projects that would disturb previously undeveloped land or increase traffic capacity. It would, however, streamline the project delivery process for important safety improvements on the rural road system where the fatality rate is twice that of the freeway system. 

AB 890 now awaits a hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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