This week, Senate Bill 1248, presented by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), was voted down on a 2-5 vote in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with Senators Gaines and Bates both supporting the bill. SB 1248, which would prevent those who seek an unfair business advantage, such as leverage from special interests, or have ulterior motives, from improperly hiding behind anonymity as a method of blocking projects through litigation -- particularly litigation, which may have nothing to do with the environment. SB 1248 would simply require full disclosure of all participating parties in CEQA litigation, removing anonymity from those who file under the pseudonyms of unincorporated associations.
"CEQA was designed to ensure that the long term protection of the environment, consistent with the provision of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every Californian, shall be the guiding criterion of public decisions," said Moorlach. "However, it fails when even the smallest of irrelevant lawsuits with ulterior motives can delay or stop the building of homes and businesses in our communities."
A recent Holland & Knight study showed that about half of CEQA lawsuits are on taxpayer projects with no business interest. For CEQA lawsuits targeting construction projects, eighty percent of them are on infill projects. Plaintiffs who challenge projects under CEQA typically file "kitchen sink complaints" that include every conceivable legal theory or cause of action that could provide a basis for a judge to set aside a project. In many instances, plaintiffs may organize under an umbrella group to remain anonymous as to not be identified in the process.
"CEQA was not planned to be a tool for bullies. The owner of private property should have the right to confront his or her accuser. CEQA abuse impacts municipalities, as half of CEQA lawsuits target taxpayer-funded projects. The most commonly targeted are transit systems and renewable energy projects," Moorlach said. "SB 1248 does not change CEQA; it seeks to add disclosure and transparency. Blocking transparency promotes the perception that California is too litigious. It's time to require full disclosure in CEQA litigation and make California more business friendly again."
SB 1248 full hearing below: