CEQA Reforms for Clean Energy Projects: Still Possible Despite Senate Budget Committee Rejection?

CEQA Reforms

On May 19, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a legislative package of 10 bills reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) intended to speed up construction of clean energy projects by streamlining regulations for solar, wind, and battery storage projects, transit and regional rail infrastructure projects, water storage projects, and the Delta Tunnel plan. The proposed measures were designed as mechanisms to accelerate such projects to completion in order to maximize California’s share of federal infrastructure dollars available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and expedite the implementation of projects that meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate, and social goals.

However, on May 27, 2023, the Senate Budget Committee shot down the proposed reforms, though not for fundamental policy reasons. In a 3-0 vote, a Senate Budget Committee found Newsom’s package was too complex for last-minute consideration under the June 2, 2023 deadline. All may not be lost. Given Governor Newsom’s statements regarding the urgency of passing his proposal, it is safe to assume this vote will not kill efforts to reform CEQA. For example, over the next few weeks, these bills could return to Senate or Assembly committees in budget negotiations or may be reintroduced through policy committees. Considering the high probability that CEQA reform will be given another chance in the near future, it is crucial to understand Governor Newsom’s recent proposal and its related implications.

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