In June we reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom’s infrastructure permitting and CEQA reform legislation package was mostly dead, with the Legislature finding it too complex for last-minute consideration. But there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Legislators and the Governor subsequently reached a tentative agreement to allow a pared-down version
Governor Gavin Newsom announced proposed major new infrastructure permitting reforms on May 19, 2023 in an effort to create thousands of jobs and build California’s clean energy future. The eleven-bill package seeks to expedite certain water, transportation, clean energy, semiconductor, and microelectronics projects, including water recycling and desalination plants, solar fields, offshore wind farms, the Sites Reservoir Project in the Sacramento Valley, and the plan to build a tunnel to transport water to Southern California beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (the Delta Conveyance Project). A Senate budget committee found the package was too complex for last-minute consideration before the June 2 cutoff for bills to pass out of their house, but there is still some hope that the plan could move forward.
On June 4, 2020 President Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities,” allowing—and, in fact, directing—federal agencies to circumvent environmental permitting requirements in order to expedite infrastructure projects. The Order is based on the President’s March 13, 2020 declaration of national emergency due to the Novel Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”) outbreak and the resulting dramatic downturn in the economy; apparently, the administration concluded that “without intervention, the United States faces the likelihood of a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistent high unemployment.”
The Order directs federal agencies to take all reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments in order to strengthen the economy. It focuses on expediting the delivery of transportation infrastructure projects, civil works projects, and projects on federal land, directing the Secretaries of Transportation, the Army, Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture to “use all relevant emergency and other authorities to expedite work on, and completion of, all authorized and appropriated” highway and other infrastructure projects; civil works projects; and infrastructure, energy, environmental, and natural resources projects on Federal lands that are within the authority of each of the Secretaries to perform or to advance.