AEP Legislative Update September 2023

Good afternoon AEP Members,

On July 10, Governor Newsom signed infrastructure and budget legislation with stated goals of accelerating infrastructure projects across California that help build the 100% clean electric grid, ensuring safe drinking water and boosting the state's water supply, and modernizing the state transportation system. The legislation was the culmination of an urgent push by Governor Newsom to quickly pass these streamlining measures.  The Governor argued it was necessary to take full advantage of the expected tens of billions of dollars coming from the Federal Government.

As originally proposed, Gov. Newsom's reform package included 11 bills. One of the most controversial pieces was an acceleration of the Delta Tunnels project, long opposed by local community and environmental groups. But this item did not make it into the law.  As finally enacted following negotiations with the Legislature, the content was consolidated into five bills which, among other things, included the following:  

  1. Expanded NEPA Delegation for various transportation projects
  2. Allows expedited judicial review under CEQA for specified energy, transportation, water, and semiconductor projects
  3. Clarifies the scope of internal agency communications that must be included in the record of proceedings, which excludes non-substantive logistical communications, such as scheduling emails and calendar invitations
  4. Extends the date by which an ELDP may be certified by the Governor from January 1, 2024, to January 1, 2032. This bill extends the date a certified project must be approved by the lead agency from January 1, 2025, to January 1, 2034
  5. Recasting the Fully Protected Species Classification

Several significant CEQA-related bills have already passed and are on their way to the Governor's desk. The Legislature has until September 14, the End of Session, to vote on bills and send them to the Governor's desk. After the End of Session, the Governor has until October 14 to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature.

SB 423 (Wiener) aims to recast and extend until 2036 the existing multifamily housing project streamlining process that was created by SB 35.  This bill would expand the ministerial process created by the law to also cover the Coastal Zone, which has drawn opposition from the California Coastal Commission. Additionally, the bill relaxes the labor standards required to utilize the exemption. The bill passed out of the Legislature on September 11, and is now on its way to the Governor's desk.

AB 1633 (Ting) would limit the ability to challenge housing projects under CEQA and makes other changes until 2031. The would expand the definition of disapproval under the HAA to include agency's failure to make a CEQA determination, failure to adopt certain environmental documents and abuse of discretion. The bill had broad support from housing advocates, but drew opposition from environmental groups. The bill passed and was sent to the Governor's desk on September 13. 

AB 1307 (Wicks) would provide that noise generated by occupants shall not be considered a significant impact on the environment for residential projects.  This bill is in response to the People's Park decision earlier this year which stated that UC Berkeley did not properly consider the effects of noise from young people at a proposed student housing project. On August 28, the bill passed and was sent to the Governor's desk for signature. He signed the measure on September 7. AEP has been supporting the bill and providing technical feedback to the author's office.

While AEP is happy to see one priority bill make it across the finish line, we will be closely watching for other bills that may impact AEP members and their work, and whether they pass before the end of Session on September 14 and are signed by the Governor.