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News Posted on November 7, 2011

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Conference Draws Top Environmental Officials, Policy Experts to King Hall

"CEQA at 40," a conference on the California Environmental Quality Act hosted by the California Environmental Law and Policy Center (CELPC) and UC Davis School of Law, brought an overflow audience to King Hall on November 4.  In one of the largest turnouts for any King Hall conference, approximately 350 attendees filled the Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom and three overflow rooms.

The conference explored the 40-year history of CEQA, widely considered the cornerstone of California's environmental protections, as well as the role it may play in the future as the state seeks to address climate change regulation, infill development, renewable energy development, and other emerging issues.  The event included introductory remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson and Professor Rick Frank, CELPC's Director; and a keynote address from Ken Alex, Senior Advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown and Director of the Governor's Office of Planning & Research.

Alex began by thanking Dean Johnson and the Law School for hosting the event, noting that he and Dean Johnson had been classmates at Harvard Law School.  He talked about the importance of CEQA, how it made environmental considerations "part of parcel of government decision-making at a very basic level," and brought transparency to the planning process.  CEQA can be even more important in coming years "as California inexorably moves toward 50 million residents in the next two decades" and confronts the challenges posed by climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said.  Alex talked about Senate Bill 226, which would streamline CEQA's environmental impact review process for projects which seek to install solar energy systems in existing structures, as an example of the ways in which CEQA may need to be modified to address climate change.  "We should do this carefully, as we should with all CEQA amendments," he said.  "We need to continually ensure that CEQA's fundamental of transparency, better decision-making, and reasonable and appropriate mitigation, remain intact and flourish for the next 40 years.

The conference also included a series of panel discussions featuring leading environmental law practitioners, scholars, and policymakers.  Panel discussions (and participants) included:

"Four Decades of CEQA: A Diverse Retrospective":

  • Kip Lipper, Consultant, Office of the California State Senate President Pro Tem
  • Hon. Ronald Robie, Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District
  • E. Clement Shute, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger
  • Christine Sproul '75, Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice
  • Susan Brandt-Hawley '77 (moderator), Brandt-Hawley Law Group

"Comparing CEQA's Evolution to NEPA, Other States' Little NEPA Statutes & Foreign Environmental Impact Assessment Laws":

  • Dan Selmi, Professor, Loyola School of Law
  • Richard Frank '74, Professor of Environmental Practice and Director, California Environmental Law and Policy Center, UC Davis School of Law
  • C. Aylin Bilir '11 (moderator)

"Applying CEQA in Challenging Times and Contexts"

  • Meea Kang, President, Domus Development, LLC, President, California Infill Builders Association
  • Renee Robin, Director of Permitting & Senior Counsel for Regulatory Affairs, SunPower Corporation
  • David C. Smith, Senior Vice President, DMB Associates, Inc.
  • Susan Hori, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, LLP (moderator)

"The Future of CEQA-Legislative, Local Government & Planning Perspectives"

  • Joe Krovoza '94, Mayor, City of Davis
  • Senator Lois Wolk, California State Senate
  • Terry Watt, AICP, Terrell Watt Planning Consultants
  • Al Lin, Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law (moderator)

"The Future of CEQA--A Conversation with Some of California's Premier CEQA Attorneys"

  • Jim Moose, Remy Thomas Moose & Manley (moderator)
  • Richard Drury, Lozeau/Drury
  • Jennifer Hernandez, Holland & Knight
  • Margaret Sohagi, Sohagi Law Group
  • Bill Yeates, Kenyon/Yeates
  • Michael Zischke, Cox Castle & Nicholson

"CEQA at 40": conference video