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Lawmakers propose changes to California Environmental Quality Act

The California Environmental Quality Act, which has been around since then-Governor Ronald Regan signed it into law in 1970, has faced quite a bit of ridicule in its time. The law, which plays a key role in California's environmental protection efforts, forces companies to undergo rigorous environmental fallout reviews. The law has seen its fair share of what some believe to be abuse, with competing companies and labor groups using it to delay projects.

Now lawmakers are working to loosen the law, but have surprisingly faced opposition from business groups. The changes proposed would speed up the environmental litigation process, as well as exempt urban projects from having to undergo environmental impact studies concentrating on view-blocking and parking.

While the lawmakers behind the proposed changes feel that it is a step in the right direction, business groups say it is a step backward. It appears business leaders want a full overhaul of the law, while some say those expectations are unrealistic. Interestingly enough, while some environmental groups understandably don't see need for change, others are open to reform.

While the law has brought environmental improvements to the state, many agree that the original purpose has sometimes fallen into the background as groups use the regulations within the act as a means to an end.

It will be important for groups on both sides of this environmental debate to keep track of the progress of these proposed changes. Any changes made to this old legislation will likely impact future environmental litigation.

Source: The New York Times, "California Takes Steps to Ease Landmark Law Protecting Environment," Adam Nagourney, Sept. 10, 2013

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