A California Chamber of Commerce-supported job creator bill that expedites and reduces costs for roadway repair and maintenance projects passed the Senate on June 22 on a unanimous vote.
AB 323 (Olsen; R-Modesto) streamlines infrastructure development by extending until January 1, 2020 the current California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for certain roadway repair and maintenance projects.
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 that 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.
CalChamber also emphasizes that 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.