The California Chamber of Commerce is urging legislators to adopt the bills in Governor Gavin Newsom’s infrastructure streamlining package.
These proposals, CalChamber President and CEO Jennifer Barrera stressed, address the urgent needs of California’s aging infrastructure while prioritizing the state’s workforce, environment, and economy.
In a letter sent to legislators last week, the CalChamber pointed out that California’s unparalleled climate change goals and policies cannot be realized under the state’s current permitting trajectory.
CalChamber representatives also testified in support of the package at each of three legislative hearings this week.
This week, the CalChamber joined a coalition of labor unions, businesses, ethnic business leaders, local governments and others in signing a letter to legislators expressing strong support of the Governor’s plan to streamline critical infrastructure projects.
The June 5 letter urged legislators to work with the administration to adopt these proposals as part of this year’s state budget process.
The letter stated that the infrastructure streamlining package is essential to accelerate critical energy, water and transportation infrastructure projects needed to achieve California’s world-leading climate goals while also preparing the economy for the future and creating hundreds of thousands of good-paying, union construction careers.
Combined, these proposals will streamline permitting, cut red tape, reduce time-consuming litigation and make other changes that will take years off of the timeline of projects while saving taxpayers, state and local governments and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Simply put, our current system is burdened with systemic delays, red tape and roadblocks that make it too difficult to build the critical infrastructure our state needs. We must do better. The Governor’s infrastructure streamlining proposals do just that,” the letter concluded.
CalChamber’s letter to legislators last week provided more detail on how streamlining projects moves the state toward its goals.
California released the world’s first plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, an aggressive target that includes unprecedented steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all sectors of the economy, including energy, transportation, agriculture and other industries. Last year, the California Legislature raised the bar again by setting interim goals of 90% zero-carbon electricity sales by 2035 and 95% by 2040.
The California Air Resources Board projects that meeting the state’s clean energy targets will require electricity generation capacity four times larger than today’s capacity. For example, five gigawatts of utility-scale solar generation must be built every year for the next 20 years to meet these targets — a rate approximately five times faster than today’s trajectory.
An analysis from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab showed that the interconnection process can take up to 3 years. The study noted that excessive environmental review and frivolous legal challenges are a significant contributor to that delay.
The Governor’s proposal outlines a path to prioritize and streamline the permitting and construction of this much-needed modern infrastructure to deliver clean energy, the CalChamber said. Importantly, the proposal also acknowledges the significant hurdle that project developers face with regards to permitting and construction of critically needed energy projects — and does so in a way that does not jeopardize the environment, jobs or the state’s economy.
“By streamlining the approval processes and providing adequate resources for the construction of energy infrastructure, California can increase the state’s capacity for renewable energy generation and storage to better meet anticipated demand,” Barrera said. “This in turn will ensure a reliable supply of electricity for a growing economy and our residents and businesses.”
As a part of the clean energy infrastructure package, the CalChamber also encouraged the Administration and Legislature to include streamlining project development for hydrogen infrastructure, Carbon Capture Sequestration and Utilization (CCUS) and renewable fuel projects, all of which are “needed to help California reach its climate goals and all of which are hindered by excessive environmental review, frivolous litigation, and inefficient ‘green tape.’”
Initiative Helps with Water Infrastructure Challenges
Also essential for California’s economic success and well-being of Californians is reliable and resilient water infrastructure. The state’s water resources already face numerous challenges, including droughts, import restrictions, aging infrastructure, and growing demand across the state from competing interests.
According to state estimates, without a dedicated effort to improve our infrastructure, California may lose up to 10% of its water supplies over the coming decades. The Governor’s water action plan, released last August, outlines a strategy to capture, recycle, desalinate and conserve more water over the next two decades to provide enough supply for nearly 8.4 million California households.
To achieve this goal, the CalChamber supports the Governor’s plan to streamline the construction of water infrastructure projects.
“Modernizing the state’s water infrastructure will foster economic opportunities and job growth in related industries, such as the housing sector, where adequate water supply is a foundational requirement for any new housing supply,” said Barrera.
Transportation Infrastructure Requires Modernization
As noted by the California Air Resources Board, a wholesale transformation of the transportation sector is vital to meet the state’s proposed GHG emission reduction targets.
Currently, California’s transportation sector accounts for about 40% of the state’s GHG emissions. California can meet its own targets to decarbonize the economy, including addressing transportation’s contributions to GHG emissions, only if the construction of transportation infrastructure (including electric vehicle charging stations, renewable fuels and hydrogen infrastructure) is expedited, the CalChamber emphasized.
The CalChamber also expressed support of efforts to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the types of projects identified in the infrastructure initiative and added that the Newsom Administration should also consider additional reforms aimed more directly at the construction of critically needed housing.
“While CEQA is designed to protect the environment, the current process is overly burdensome, lengthy and too easily abused. For too long, special interest groups have weaponized CEQA to delay, scale back, or halt projects altogether for reasons unrelated to the environment,” said Barrera. “Streamlining CEQA for clean energy, water and transportation infrastructure, as well as more directly for the construction of new housing, can be achieved with environmental protections that help to restore the statute’s original intent.”