Newsom introduces CEQA reform package aimed at fast-tracking infrastructure projects

The article discusses how the governor of California is proposing changes that he believes will speed up construction projects, save money, and reduce the amount of paperwork required.

Newsom introduces CEQA reform package aimed at fast-tracking infrastructure projects

Gavin Newsom has taken another crack at reforming California’s environmental review system that has been blamed by many for years for delaying large infrastructure investments and slowing construction projects.

Newsom announced his plan at a press conference held in Stanislaus County, California on Friday. He signed an executive order and introduced 11 trailer bills to the Legislature for consideration as part of the budget process this year.

Newsom stated at a news conference that 'it's simple'. It's all about saving money, time and dealing with bureaucratic malaise.

Newsom said that the package is based on the findings of the report, released by the nonprofit California Forward and the former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in collaboration with the state infrastructure adviser.

According to the report, the state could receive $180 billion over the next decade in funding from federal spending packages such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act as well as from state funding, like the gas taxes. According to the report, this funding could lead to 400,000 new construction positions.

Newsom stated that if we could get our act together, and make these projects shovel-ready so we can get federal funding, there are hundreds of billions at stake. It's going to states that are more aggressive.

Newsom's Executive Order directs that the state organize a team of infrastructure strike teams to coordinate across state agencies, federal, tribal, and local governments, and identify and streamline significant infrastructure projects.

The proposed legislation will address several snags projects encounter during the approval process. These include getting caught up in legal challenges, and the lengthy environmental review process required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

This would speed up the judicial review of projects, allow faster permitting and streamline procedures for CEQA document storage and review.

Newsom cited a proposed water infrastructure plan - a previous version of the Delta Tunnel project - that included a 289,000 page environmental review document.

Newsom stated that 'no human in the entire world except lawyers and special interest groups that are there for manipulation of a process have read that'. "This is absurd."

Newsom claimed that his proposals would reduce project timelines by over three years, save public and private money in the hundreds of millions and reduce paper work by hundreds of thousands pages.