Enviroshield: Create a California environmental certification authority (CECA) with citizen oversight that allows housing and infrastructure projects to get immunity from CEQA litigation as long as they remain compliant with the terms of the certification process, including all applicable state and federal environmental laws.

BACKGROUND

California faces challenges in balancing the need for housing and infrastructure development with the requirements of environmental regulations, particularly the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA has been effective in protecting the environment but has also become a source of litigation, causing delays and escalating costs for development projects. To address these challenges, California should create a State Environmental Certification Authority that grants developers immunity from CEQA litigation in exchange for compliance with a rigorous certification process.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Creation of a state certification authority that can approve and exempt critical projects from further litigation and review.
  • Would still allow local jurisdictions to have control over land use and planning decisions.
  • Citizen oversight board or commission would be structured similar to the California Air Resources Board, with Senate-confirmed gubernatorial appointments that include representation from environmental justice organizations, labor, real estate developers, and local planning agencies.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • This proposal would benefit from lessons learned from the state’s Cutting the Green Tape initiative to increase the pace of environmental restoration.
  • Could create a pilot program, with greater prioritization for projects that are net carbon neutral and/or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In the event of delays and backlogs in certification, could provide faster consideration for:
  • Projects that enable local jurisdictions to meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals
  • Projects in jurisdictions that have “one stop shops” for local permits on a range of items, including water, sewer, electricity, parking, land use, and business licensing