Assembly Bill 1001, authored by Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), proposes two new requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that inhibit local flexibility, could reduce future mitigation efforts, and will significantly increase the risk of costly and prolonged litigation.
AB 1001 requires all public agencies to “act consistently with the principles of environmental justice” when implementing CEQA. AB 1001 also requires projects that impact a disadvantaged community’s air or water quality to mitigate those effects directly in that impacted community.
While RCRC understands and shares the author’s intent to ensure environmental impacts are mitigated locally and improve community engagement, these two changes will further complicate CEQA compliance and significantly exacerbate the litigation trap CEQA has become over the last several decades.
With respect to the effort to inject environmental justice principals into the CEQA process, RCRC argued that CEQA is the poor venue for these efforts, which will merely create more litigation traps because of the ambiguous and amorphous nature of the requirements.
The local mitigation mandate is also problematic because it could either substantially raise mitigation costs or result in fewer project impacts being mitigated. Under existing law, if there are no opportunities available to mitigate a project’s impacts, statements of overriding considerations can be adopted so the project can be approved without mitigating environmental effects.
RCRC has offered to work with the author to find better approaches to promoting local mitigation and improving engagement of those who are most acutely impacted by projects.
AB 1001 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on January 20 and is now up for consideration on the Assembly Floor.