SAN FRANCISCO (August 4, 2015) – Law firm Holland & Knight today released the first comprehensive study of lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), systematically reporting on widespread abuse that undermines the state's environmental, social equity and economic priorities. The study, "In the Name of the Environment," analyzes all CEQA lawsuits filed in California over a three-year period and recommends reforms to rein in CEQA litigation abuse by extending transparency mandates to CEQA lawsuits, eliminating duplicative CEQA lawsuits for the same plan or project, and aligning extraordinary judicial remedies such as injunctions with conventional civil litigation practice.
Among the key findings:
Read the full complimentary report.
"CEQA has been singled out as one of the key causes of runaway housing prices and as a major reason California has fallen far behind other states in creating, retaining and onshoring the middle-class manufacturing jobs that have helped create a manufacturing renaissance in other states," said Jennifer Hernandez, the head of Holland & Knight's West Coast Land Use and Environment Group and lead author of the study. "Ending CEQA litigation abuse is the most cost-effective 'incentive' available to restore California's middle-class job base and make housing more affordable, assure that taxpayer funds are spent on projects not process, and meaningfully improve the future of the nearly nine million Californians whom the U.S. Census Bureau reported were living in poverty."
"CEQA litigation abuse is real, it is harming people – especially the poor, the working class and the young – and it is hindering rather than advancing critical environmental priorities," Ms. Hernandez continued. "Of greatest concern at a policy and political level, CEQA litigation abuse allows polite, passionate neighbors to oppose change in the name of the 'environment' even when such change is required to address critical environmental priorities such as climate change. CEQA litigation abuse also allows parties seeking to advance non-environmental objectives to anonymously sue – again in the name of the 'environment' – to gain leverage against competitors, employers and taxpayers."
The study recommends three reforms to curtail CEQA litigation abuse:
It concludes that these moderate reforms will end lawsuit abuse and return CEQA to its mission of protecting the environment and public health, informing and involving the public, and assuring transparency and accountability for agency decisions that affect the environment.
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