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California eyeing new environmental law after Rams stadium issue

Fans of the California football team, the Los Angeles Rams, have been celebrating the fact that construction is starting on the new stadium for the team. Area residents, however, feel frustrated and even infuriated that courts ignored their legitimate concerns. State courts ruled against lawsuits with legal concerns as a result of the law requiring speedy resolution to these issues.

In fact, the Rams are one of five powerful organizations in recent years to take advantage of a California law that restricts the timeframe wherein citizens can bring environmental lawsuits against new development.

Now, to prevent similar issues in the future, a Democratic state Assemblyman from Riverside has introduced a new bill. This would alter environmental laws in California to prevent these kinds of massive developments without adequate and thorough environmental impact assessments. If voters pass the law, local governments will no longer be able to approve projects on a fast track basis, allowing their creators to sidestep the rigorous and critical environmental review process.

Voters can currently help companies bypass environmental laws

Currently, California law allows for voter initiatives for approval of development projects. Projects approved by voters are exempt from requirements regarding environmental assessments. This means that big organizations with deep pockets can operate without complying with the California Environmental Quality Act if voters decide in their favor.

Unfortunately, voters are often easily swayed by inaccurate and aggressive advertising campaigns created by groups that stand to profit substantially by the approval of a proposed development project. This new law could do away with that practice.

In the case of the Ram's stadium, the city council made the controversial decision to approve the project based solely on the fact that the organization collected enough signatures to place the issue on a ballot. While many citizens question this practice, the state Supreme Court created precedent in the case of a Walmart's approval in Tuolumne County back in 2014. Until the law is changed, this practice can legally continue across the state, potentially resulting in voter disenfranchisement and severe environmental damages caused by poorly vetted development plans.

An attorney can help if you have concerns about a project

When you have reason to believe a proposed development project will affect your property value, the local environment or your quality of life, you should speak with an experienced environmental attorney as soon as possible. An attorney who understands both business and environmental laws can help you explore options for opposing a development that could cause nuisance or prevent you from selling your home in the future. Just because the development company is wealthy and powerful doesn't mean your voice and opinion don't matter. Your attorney can ensure that your concerns are heard.

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