(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Legislation by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) to increase public access to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) project documents and encourage greater public engagement in development projects has been approved by the California State Legislature. AB 819 (Levine) was approved by the State Senate on a bi-partisan vote of 39 to 0 and approved by the State Assembly on a bi-partisan vote of 79 to 0.
CEQA requires a lead agency, often a local or state government agency, to receive, file and make specific reports publicly available when infrastructure, a development or other project is proposed. The use of paper filing and mail requests of CEQA documents is outdated and cumbersome - it inhibits public access and limits public input in development and infrastructure projects.
In April 2020, due to the closure of state and local government offices from the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order allowing certain filing and posting requirements under CEQA to be carried out electronically. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed government and the private sector to rethink how it conducts its business – evolving to embrace the use of technology to meet the needs of people across the state, while reducing costs and increasing transparency.
“Modernizing CEQA is politically challenging, but streamlining filing while increasing access makes perfect sense,” said Assemblymember Levine. “Paper filing and standard mail requests of CEQA documents is outdated and cumbersome - it inhibits public access, is expensive and limits public input in development and infrastructure projects. AB 819 brings CEQA into the 21st century and will make it easier for the public to understand and engage with project proponents and their government on the environmental impacts of projects across the state. I encourage Governor Newsom to sign this bill into law.”
AB 819 codifies parts of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order by allowing filing and posting requirements under CEQA to continue being carried out electronically. Adopting the permanent use of online filing and posting for CEQA documents will increase transparency in the environmental review process, reduce the cost to filers and government agencies to process CEQA documents and give greater voice to those most impacted by development projects across the state.
“AB 819 would modernize CEQA reporting requirements by requiring a lead agency to post certain environmental documents on its website along with submitting them electronically to the State Clearinghouse,” said Kris Anderson with the Association of California Water Agencies. “Centralizing these documents online would provide the public with a more transparent way to review information for projects subject to CEQA. This bill would also provide lead agencies with a more efficient way to make these documents publicly available. AB 819 represents a reasonable improvement to CEQA.”
AB 819 now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom for final consideration.
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