This week, RCRC expressed opposition to Senate Bill 37, authored by Senator Dave Cortese (D-Santa Clara), which will add significant costs and procedural delays for many types of minor projects that will have no significant impact on the environment. 

Specifically, SB 37 prohibits use of the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) “common sense” exemption for projects on sites listed on the state’s Cortese List.  The Cortese List is a compendium of over 40,000 contaminated sites across the state.

While the author has indicated his goal is to prevent local governments from using the “common sense exemption” for projects that may expose workers and future tenants to hazardous wastes, the bill is far broader in scope.

Hundreds of state and local government properties throughout the state are impacted, many of which include corporation yards, equipment repair facilities, municipal airports (often in rural areas), fire stations, municipal administration buildings, courthouses, correctional facilities, highway patrol stations, state parks, closed landfills, etc.  Most of these sites are listed because they previously had a leaking underground storage tank that has since been remediated.

By prohibiting use of the “common sense exemption,” SB 37 will require state and local agencies to perform an initial assessment and issue a negative declaration before commencing a wide variety of projects that will have no significant impact on the environment. These projects could include roof replacement, paving maintenance and repair, installation of security equipment and fencing, installation of solar or energy storage projects, maintenance or replacement of existing structures, interior alterations, etc.

Private projects will also be impacted by SB 37, since it would preclude local government use of the “common sense exemption” for extensions of previously approved use permits or site approvals, continuation of existing leases, and minor zoning changes for Cortese List properties.

SB 37 is expected to be referred to the Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials and Natural Resources Committees.  RCRC will work with Senator Cortese and the Assembly to substantially narrow SB 37 to ensure that it does not create the unintended consequences that will result from the current version of the bill. RCRC’s letter of opposition may be viewed here. For additional information, contact John Kennedy by email or call 916-447-4806.