Builders cheer demise of California environmental law

By Joseph Doolen

Upon attending the West Coast Green events at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week, I was thrilled to find out that Governor Jerry Brown would be speaking at the larger event for the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) on Thursday.  It soon became evident that folks at PCBC were less concerned with being green than they were with their businesses’ bottom lines.

PCBC led the way at Moscone. Photo by Joseph Doolen

West Coast Green (WGC), the self-proclaimed “world’s leading interactive conference on green innovation for the built environment,” held their fifth annual event in concert with PCBC this year.  It seems that WCG, which had previously had big name speakers like Al Gore, Arianna Huffington and Van Jones, took a back seat to PCBC.

Very little at the PCBC events had to do with being “green” and, if it did, it was often a “greenwashed” selling point with of little environmental significance.  Endeck’s PVC decking?  Various BPA-rich expoxy grouts and paints? There were some misguided products at WGC last year, but it looks like the merger has changed the event.

This feeling was never more evident than when a man stood to ask the governor a well-rehearsed question about the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):

“The old Governor Jerry Brown helped create CEQA many years ago.  Will the new and improved Governor Jerry Brown help us eliminate or modify CEQA in the state of California?”

Thunderous applause. Hoots and hollers from the suits in the crowd. Indeed, it was the biggest reaction I saw at any event at Moscone Center this week.

The governor pointed out immediately that it was Ronald Reagan who passed CEQA when he was governor, and that as mayor of Oakland, Brown had personally subverted CEQA in the name of downtown’s growth and development.

“Did he really know what he was getting into?” Brown said of Reagan. “I doubt it, and the reason is that laws are created at a level of abstraction that allows them to evolve… endlessly.”

The purpose of CEQA, according to state government is for “state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.”  This doesn’t sound so bad, so what’s the big deal?

Business interests have called the 1970 law a job killer, likening it to a cancer.  This language is often used when profits are threatened, and is echoed through the halls of government.

Governor Brown added that he would “like to see great CEQA reform.”

The pressure has been building to change CEQA in Sacramento, where the building industry is flexing its muscle. Five Republican state senators threatened to withhold voting for Brown’s budget this spring unless the law was weakened.

Perhaps CEQA should continue to change, as it has been for decades.  But the people at PCBC aren’t the ones to lead the way to this change.

The only environmental issue raised by the governor himself was fascinating.  He talked about an enormous investment of $5 billion in a solar power facility in Blythe, California.  The project, known as Solar Millennium, is based out in the desert near the Arizona border.  Brown proclaimed that it would propel California to become “not the nation’s leader, but the world leader” in solar energy.

My jaw literally dropped when Brown declared that the project would DOUBLE the entire amount of solar-generated electricity IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

Nothing.  Crickets. The project was not mentioned in the discussion afterward, nor was it asked about in the Q&A afterward.

I understand that the state budget is big news this week, and much of the speech and following conversations gravitated toward this, Prop 13 and the economy at large. But come on.  These people at PCBC only have the green in their pockets on their mind.

Tags: building industry, , , , , west coast green

Comments are closed.

Featured Video

"It's gettin' real in the Whole Foods parking lot" by Smog and Fog Films.

Follow Us!

Recent Comments

Jerry: The statement that the SF Public Utilities Commission is developing local w...
Tree Removal Brisbane: We all love trees!...
Howard Wong: The high risk to the City's finances is a real concern---because the Federa...
MROSD: Thank you for taking an interest in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Di...
Mark: If we're financially responsible for the trees fronting our property, I sur...
Anon: So they didn't consider to include non-business owners? What gives?...
Ultra-Humanite: I believe it's called survival of the fittest for a reason....
Mark: Just leave mother nature alone and if that means the demise of the spotted ...
Michelle Burke: If property owners are fined $500 per tree because they failed to give near...
Chris: Reduce City workers benefits to reasonable standards and the City will sudd...

Field Notes Blog

Report: San Francisco faces water-related dangers

San Francisco  has been identified as one of the most vulnerable cities in the nation when it comes to water-related impacts of climate change....
Read more »

Builders cheer demise of California environmental law

Upon attending the West Coast Green events at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week, I was thrilled to find out that Governor...
Read more »

Recycling carpets in California will save landfill space

Of the myriad of things cramming California landfills, discarded carpets are taking up lots of space. About 400 million pounds are tossed each year,...
Read more »

Got News?

Send story tips or news items for The Daily Catch:

[email protected]

We want to hear from you!

Who we are

Way Out West is a news site for the Bay Area dedicated to daily coverage of local green news.

We're camping out at public meetings, traipsing through parks, and sticking our noses into green tech research to bring you relevant local stories that matter.

WOW is produced by two local environmental journalists for you, our eco-savvy readers. We'd love to hear what you want from this site.