Public opinion polls show that Californians are concerned about jobs. They are also concerned about climate change and there is a tail-wind of support behind two bills in the legislature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: SB 32 by Senator Fran Pavley and SB 350 by Senate pro temp Kevin deLeon.

SB 32 would create a new legal mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. It would vest primary oversight power with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and would be immediately enforceable through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

SB 350 mandates specific consumer behavior by requiring a 50 percent reduction in gasoline and diesel consumption by 2030. This bill also mandates that half of California’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030 and that property owners double the energy efficiency of their buildings by 2030. CARB would again be given the power and authority to use CEQA and other new regulations to enforce these mandates.

Businesses support the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and are hopeful that the invention of new technologies will enable that goal to be achieved in the future. They are concerned, however, about the lack of flexibility, the job losses in traditional energy industries and the potential new costs for California companies in the production and delivery of products and services.

Businesses and public entities that have experienced major time delays, added costs and sometimes a complete failure to move a project forward due to non-environmental related CEQA lawsuits also see SB 32 and SB 350 as highly probable justifications for an increase in CEQA abuses.

Based on a comprehensive review by Holland & Knight of 600 lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act during 2010-2012, a large number of CEQA lawsuits are targeted at projects related to renewable energy, affordable housing and public infrastructure. If the issue of CEQA abuse is not addressed, SB 32 and SB 350 will encourage more lawsuits and significantly reduce the construction of renewable energy projects, affordable housing and public infrastructure. When these projects are delayed, jobs are not being created and important public policy goals are not being met.

Balancing the important goals of reducing climate change and increasing jobs for Californians should be the focus as the legislature addresses SB 32 and SB 350 during the remainder of this session.