Senate Legislation Creates Incentives for Increased Environmental Litigation

A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed proposal that expands and incentivizes litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) without providing any benefit to the environment is scheduled to be considered next week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 754 (Evans; D-Santa Rosa) is a dramatic expansion of CEQA that increases the complexity and cost of CEQA compliance by:

  • prohibiting a lead agency from asking a project proponent to draft an environmental impact report (EIR);
  • forcing re-analysis of projects that are more than seven years old;
  • creating a new cause of action to allow anyone to stop a project by alleging a mitigation measure has not been implemented; and removing limits on archeological resources mitigation fees.

The CalChamber believes the Legislature should be more appropriately focused on updating CEQA, now 43 years old, to address legitimate concerns about unnecessary litigation while reinforcing the existing statute’s core purpose of environmental protection and public participation.

Cost Concerns

Compliance with CEQA imposes considerable costs on project proponents. SB 754 will increase costs for all project proponents by changing the CEQA process and increasing litigation over CEQA projects.

  • First, SB 754 requires a lead agency to choose between taking on the burden and staff time necessary to prepare an environmental impact analysis itself, or to rely on outside contractors to prepare the initial environmental impact analysis, which often includes increased overhead costs and contingency fees.
  • Second, this bill will require that more projects have a full EIR prepared, even though the project complies with a plan that is timely and for which no circumstances have changed. These analyses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform, even if they aren’t litigated, meaning that the use of tiering provides a considerable savings for the state that would be undercut by SB 754.
  • Finally, by creating a new, unnecessary private right of action, SB 754 ensures more projects will end up in court, costing project proponents tens of thousands of dollars per challenge.

Action Needed

SB 754 is scheduled for consideration by Senate Appropriations on May 20. Contact your senator and members of the committee and urge them to oppose SB 754.