I am often asked by the media what elected officials can do to be more business-friendly and create new jobs. I tell them about California business regulations and taxes that do not exist in other states. I also talk about streamlined processes and tax credits that do exist in other states. My concrete examples about regulations often include abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Today, I will share a real-time example of how CEQA is being abused in Los Angeles County to thwart the creation of middle-class jobs.
A company named Kinkisharyo International has been selected by the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) to provide new rail cars for its light rail lines. The company has moved its United States headquarters from suburban Boston to El Segundo; and at the urging of local officials, it plans to build a $60 million rail car production facility on 60 acres in an industrial park in the City of Palmdale. The City of Palmdale is very excited about the new facility and the new jobs.
Unfortunately, a local labor union in the Antelope Valley has filed a series of CEQA appeals to Kinkisharyo’s environmental clearances, which is delaying the project and putting Kinkisharyo’s new facility in Palmdale in jeopardy. The union claims are not truly about the environment, they are about trying to force union representation on the plant.
The authors and supporters of the original CEQA bill more than 40 years ago were a bi-partisan group with the best of intentions. Now, their well-intentioned law is being used to kill, delay or blackmail projects for non-environmental reasons. CEQA reform is necessary, not to take away protections for the environment, but to make common sense changes that reduce the opportunities to hijack CEQA and stop the creation of middle-class jobs.
For Kinkisharyo and their 250 well-paid career manufacturing jobs, the issue is now, not several years down the road. All of us must join together in urging the union to drop its appeal. A $60 million investment and 250 well-paid manufacturing jobs are at stake.