AB 323 (Olsen; R-Modesto) extends, until January 1, 2020, the current California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for certain roadway repair and maintenance projects.
The exemption applies for the repair, maintenance, or minor alterations to an existing roadway if the project is carried out by a city or county with a population of less than 100,000 persons. Without action, this exemption is set to expire on January 1, 2016.
Importantly, the exemption AB 323 proposes to extend applies only if certain requirements are met, including: the project must not cross a waterway, there must be negligible expansion of use, the site must not contain wetlands or riparian habitat, and there must be no impact to cultural resources.
Ensuring that minor roadway maintenance and repair projects in small to mid-size jurisdictions move forward expeditiously is critically important from a public safety standpoint.
Although such projects may fall within certain categorical exemptions under the CEQA Guidelines, AB 323 ensures that roadway repair and maintenance projects would continue to be statutorily exempt from CEQA and thus would not be subject to exceptions that may defeat their use. Accordingly, if a proposed project fits within the terms of AB 323’s stated exemption, then that is the end of the inquiry and the exemption applies.
CEQA was initially passed to ensure that California’s environment is considered before moving forward with a project. Over time, however, CEQA has become a hook for litigation and a means to delay worthy projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment.
Until changes are made to the underlying process, CalChamber supports legitimate CEQA exemptions, such as AB 323, which will encourage the expeditious approval and implementation of minor but important roadway projects.
AB 323 passed Assembly Natural Resources on March 23 with unanimous support.
Ayes: Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Dahle (R-Bieber), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach), Harper (R-Huntington Beach), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), McCarty (D-Sacramento), Rendon (D-Lakewood), Wood (D-Healdsburg).
The bill will be considered next by the Assembly Transportation Committee.
For background information, see the 2015 CalChamber Business Issues and Legislative Guide article on CEQA.