by Emily Bonney
Widener University Political Science Major
The Environment v. Economy debate has reared its ugly head in the most unlikely of places this time – California. Known for their trailblazing environmental policies, politicians are now considering making changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act by weakening the strict regulations on urban development. Even more surprising is the switch in roles of the players. It is being supported by the Democratic Party and Governor Jerry Brown (D). Democratic Leader Steinburg of the California State Senate proposed changes including “exempting urban projects from parking and aesthetic reviews, and speeding up the pace of litigation” and Business leaders are on the side of the environment now, declaring the proposal “Steps backwards” and urging lawmakers to vote against the bill. Some of the main issues are that the current legislation is being used to block development by environmentalist groups as well as competition. Senator Steinburg additionally adds a caveat that would exempt the Sacramento sports arena from environmental review to stop the city’s basketball team, the Kings, from moving to Seattle. In a follow-up article, the State legislature did pass these laws.
California has long been lauded as the leader in environmental policy and this change of heart speaks heavily of the times upon us. The resulting decision in favor of weakening the policies also brings the question to light – what comes next? The breaking of the steadfast resolve in this green state is shocking to behold. Urban development will now be easier, but it will be interesting to know what California has planned to do to combat the inevitable rise in pollution that comes with increase in business and population in these concentrated areas. Urban development draws more jobs and therefore more people in, which could boost the economy; one aspect Democratic leaders might have been considering in the current economic climate. But at what cost to the Environment? Coming in third behind the peninsulas of Alaska and Florida, California has the longest coastline in the US. The state also holds 278 State Parks. If this is only the beginning, what example has California set for the rest of us?