Proposed Bill Threatens Needed Infrastructure Projects and Jobs Into the Future
California has a rich history of actively protecting its natural resources — our environmental laws are the strongest in the nation. Californians expect state statutes such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to work on behalf of their communities.
The impetus for CEQA can be traced back to 1969. After the passage of the first federal environmental protection statute (the National Environmental Policy Act), California proactively set to work to put state policies in place. The following year, the California legislature passed a state counterpart to the NEPA — the CEQA statute. Since 1970, CEQA has protected the interests of Californians by requiring that agencies identify and mitigate the environmental impacts of upcoming development projects.
Yet newly introduced legislation AB-1000 disregards CEQA as the final arbiter of environmental protection for Californians, which opponents say establishes a troubling precedent. By seeking to override existing law governing water conveyance, AB-1000 calls into question the broad-reaching environmental permitting process that has served Californians for five decades.
Californians look to the law to protect not only their environmental security but also their economic security. In order to thrive, California’s communities need access to economic opportunities —and new infrastructure projects bring jobs and economic security.
The first infrastructure and job-creation project to be impacted by AB-1000 would be the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project, designed to conserve groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County and provide a new water supply for 400,000 people across Southern California.
Having already been thoroughly reviewed and approved in accordance with CEQA, the Cadiz Water Project is set to create nearly 6,000 jobs over two phases of construction — 50% of which have been dedicated to county residents, with 10% reserved for US veterans. Construction is expected to generate $878 million in economic activity and infuse close to $40 million in new tax revenue for local governments. AB-1000 would put those jobs and economic benefits in jeopardy by forcing the project to undergo a duplicative and costly new certification process that is unwarranted.
If AB-1000 is successful in negating the certainty of the CEQA process, any infrastructure project going forward could face the same challenges as Cadiz — mired in new legislative requirements even after passing through the state’s environmental review and approval process. Such a legislative mandate would jeopardize valuable jobs and opportunities for California’s tradesmen and women, and their families.