Unions Should Join Effort to Update CEQA Law

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Yesterday, it was reported that environmentalists joined forces with labor unions to form a new coalition to defend the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). By preventing needed changes to the CEQA laws, the unions are undercutting opportunities to improve economic conditions in the state, which can only benefit their members.

Let’s be clear that no one is talking about doing away with CEQA. However, streamlining the law to require more reasonable approaches to its cumbersome bureaucratic and legal aspects is needed to insure California’s economic growth.

For private craft unions, the ease of regulations on development would mean more jobs. For public unions, an economic stimulus means more revenue for state and local treasuries.

As revealed here, membership in construction unions is getting smaller in California. You would think the unions would want to support more building and quicker approval of building projects to give more opportunity to their members.

Public workers are in line to benefit from economic growth that would increase revenue to governments.

As I mentioned on this site before, I think the public unions should rally behind opening the Monterey Shale Field for oil and gas production. Experts estimate the field could produce a wealth of natural resources that would rival Saudi Arabia. One study places the economic boost to the state at $1 trillion, with a quarter of that ending up in state and local government coffers over two decades.

While the public unions have been successful politically in this state, the issue of pension and healthcare costs still presents a huge problem for them. There must be further reforms in the areas of pension and healthcare benefits for public workers. The pension reform passed by the legislature last year did not go far enough. However, from a political standpoint, it would appear that if the unions support the development of the oil fields, which could produce billions in tax revenues to reduce the state’s funding liabilities, the unions could ease the pressure on the pension issue.

For private unions, the ripple effect through the economy of opening the shale field would create jobs for their members such as housing for the new workers needed in the field.

Why unions have joined an effort to thwart major reforms to CEQA instead of promoting reasonable changes to the law is a puzzle.

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