Home>Articles>Gov. Newsom to Expedite Water, Clean Energy Projects Delayed by His Own Politics

Governor Gavin Newsom at the California and New Zealand Partner to Advance Global Climate Leadership press conference, San Francisco, CA, May 27, 2022. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)

Gov. Newsom to Expedite Water, Clean Energy Projects Delayed by His Own Politics

Arenas and stadiums are almost always exempted from CEQA, rather than housing projects or reservoirs

By Katy Grimes, May 22, 2023 9:06 am

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that he now is seeking to fast track water, storage and clean energy projects delayed by environmental lawsuits and the byzantine  permitting process. This may be a great move however, Newsom has approved and implemented the policies impeding these important projects for decades.

So why flip now?

Apparently, the White House beckons Newsom as he tries to appear moderate – that much is patently obvious.

But the more pressing question is Why not remove the environmental impediments to building all water storage, water delivery, and housing projects if it is so important in these cherry-picked projects?

The biggest barrier is the California Environmental Quality Act to building nearly anything on a large scale in California.

And many experts say it is the most destructive impediment into California’s housing crisis and water storage crisis.

Why do politicians only exempt the cumbersome CEQA environmental requirements for new professional sports stadiums and pet projects of the Legislature?

In 2013, I first predicted then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) would author some kind of CEQA exemption for the proposed Golden One arena for the Sacramento Kings.

CEQA is often called “the tort lawyer full employment act.” So his SB 731 billed as a “CEQA reform bill” should have been called the “Sacramento Kings full employment act.”

Steinberg’s bill actually allowed the city to bypass addressing real traffic impacts in its Environmental Impact Report on the arena project, among other environmental impacts. And he and his staff lied about it when I directly asked if they were seeking CEQA exemptions.

Steinberg’s gut-and-amend-bill was jammed through with lightening speed to exempt the Sacramento Kings arena plan from the restrictions of the California Environmental Quality Act. Sacramento officials shoved the arena deal through at breakneck speed for a reason.

The need to bypass California’s absurdly strict environmental guidelines and restrictions prevent most large scale projects from ever taking place without legislative intervention. Arenas and stadiums are almost always exempted, rather than housing projects or reservoirs. Yet the environmentalists are always silent on the arena deals.

This wasn’t the first such environmental exemption. A proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles for a pro football team in 2012, and the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara each received CEQA exemptions.

In 2016 the Legislature approved a CEQA exemption to streamline the $1.3 billion project to restore, renovate or replace the existing State Capitol Building Annex.

“CEQA is truly the third rail of California politics,” the Pacific Research Institute’s Kerry Jackson said. “Lawmakers fear touching it in any meaningful way will kill their careers. But when it suits them, they are perfectly willing to bend the rail.”

In September 2020, while the state was still suffering under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s oppressive COVID restrictions of lockdowns, and business and school closures, the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Committee on Rules held a hearing on the plans for the $1.3 billion renovation of the State Capitol while ignoring actual state business urgencies.

Then-Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) told the Globe, “The issues we should be holding hearings on aren’t happening. But the Legislature can spruce up its own digs.”

Former Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento), who recently lost his reelection bid to new Assemblyman Josh Hoover (R-Sacramento), led the Capitol Annex renovation project on the Joint Legislative Rules Committee. The committee and Cooley ignored the Environmental Impact Report, and bypassed California’s Environmental Quality Act in the process, sacrificing 150 to 180 heritage trees surrounding the Capitol, including two huge Southern Magnolia trees with circumferences of 61″ and 31″ each.

Paula Peper, a now-retired Urban Ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, and appointed member of the Historic State Capitol Commission told the Globe in an April 2022 interview the new underground Capitol renovation parking is sacrificing the trees, and was concerned that within one decade, Capitol Park will have lost 27% of its trees.

Pepper said Cooley and the committee refused their California Public Records Act request for information and plowed ahead without environmental impact reports.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest proposal is also the perfect example of bending that third rail. “Newsom is seeking a slew of changes to make it much faster for these projects to gain the required permits and approvals,” the AP reported. “Other projects that could be eligible include solar, wind and battery power storage; transit and regional rail; road maintenance and bridge projects; semiconductor plants; and wildlife crossings along Interstate 15, Newsom’s office said. His efforts to speed projects would not apply to building more housing.”

Politicians choose to impose or bypass CEQA requirements when it is politically expedient for them. They bend over backwards for politically favored projects. But they have no problem killing important infrastructure projects, housing projects, highway widening projects, while crooning environmental prose.

Newsom’s latest announcement on construction of the Delta water tunnel under the San Joaquin River Delta, and the Sites Reservoir, was couched to make it sound as if he’s Gavin the Benevolent, rather than a manipulative politician.

Newsom has been talking – and only talking – about these two projects since he was elected governor in 2018. In 2022, he announced his Water Supply Strategy in which he endorsed the Sites Project “and even had the temerity to suggest environmentalist obstruction is stopping as many good projects as bad ones,” Ed Ring reported at the Globe.

Newsom resurrected the massive tunnel project – with only one tunnel, which many say will still destroy the Delta. “Some of our favorite wineries, and all of the Delta agriculture could end up under water and/or the land rendered useless if Gov. Jerry Brown’s unnecessary Delta Tunnels project is actually built,” I wrote in 2018.

California voters have passed more than $30 billion in water bonds over the years to build additional water storage and two new reservoirs, which would accomplish more water delivery to Southern California without destroying the Delta, its inhabitants, and its prime farmland.

He’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth while attempting to appease both sides of the environmental chasm, trying to sound like Gavin the Moderate.

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12 thoughts on “Gov. Newsom to Expedite Water, Clean Energy Projects Delayed by His Own Politics

  1. If a successful bio-tech brain implant could change Gavin the Puffed-Up Phony into Gavin the Actually-Benevolent or Gavin the Actually-Moderate(!!), I might even consider supporting bio-tech brain implants in the future. But, as Katy Grimes hinted, since Gavin is all talk and no action, we can’t be sure he will dump CEQA for even the projects he has cited, never mind for all of what Californians have for so long desperately needed —- and still need. His blah-blah-blah about this will likely only be used to fund-raise and tediously brag on the prez pre-campaign trail… and go no farther.

  2. Don’t you ever get tired of bashing our dreamy, well-coiffed governor, Katy?

    Thanks a million, and keep up the great work!

  3. Does anyone take him seriously anymore?
    I have an idea, Gavin The Fake Moderate should don his yellow hard hat and vest and get out there, start digging the new site for the reservoir.
    A manly, go get em attitude is all that is really needed here.
    Come on Gav, suspending CEQA for pet projects is so 2020 unless it’s for a navigation center or home key living project!

    Roll Up those sleeves, pretty boy and get to work, you have a nation to destroy!
    If the DNC asked him to do cartwheels down the 405, there he would be!

  4. Ha! No kidding, Cali Girl.
    He can even wear that T-shirt he’s so fond of for pre-election (recall or regular) trash pick-up photo-ops.

  5. Newsom is a WEF globalist stooge who cannot be trusted to do what is best for California. He and his Democrat cronies will do all they can to create water scarcity in order to control Californians while raising their taxes.

  6. I WILL bet a paid off, NEW house in Florida, ten minutes from the beach, that come late August, the Cali aquifer system WILL BE BONE DRY!!!
    PM me for my attorney’s info if you wish to cover the bet.

  7. Newsom is FOLLOWING the lead of New California State who for the last five years has been telling the world New California will build the infrastructure he’s now wanting to build. In the last five years Newsom has been neglecting 40 million Californians by failing to provide a republican form of government, keeping us free from invasion and keeping us free from domestic violence. Now that New California has moved onto Congress with our petition’s for statehood Newsom has decided to “act” like a governor. The reality is he’s the dictator of a communist state.

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