UPDATE: The January 28, 2013 Sacramento Bee has a profile of Senator Michael Rubio in the context of his campaign to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (Moderate Michael Rubio Takes on California’s Environmental Law):
State Sen. Michael Rubio says he first wondered if something were wrong with California’s environmental review law during his days as a Kern County supervisor, when he saw it used to slow wind and solar projects he considered green by their very nature…he said he was “shocked” to see projects that could improve the environment and public health “delayed significantly by misuses and abuses of a wonderful statute.”
As you might expect, Rubio says nothing about how construction unions used CEQA to try to force a Project Labor Agreement on the Big West/Flying J refinery modernization in Bakersfield (see below) or on Recurrent Energy solar projects in Kern County.
Also, a January 20, 2013 letter to the editor of the Sacramento Bee responds to Rubio’s January 13, 2013 op-ed by noting that Rubio Would Gut CEQA for Public, but Not Touch Unions.
For more background on CEQA reform, see my three articles A First Crack at Analyzing the Proposed CEQA Reform: “The Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012, CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013, and Looks Like CEQA Reform Talks Are Underway…Good Luck People.
State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) is the leading voice in the California State Legislature for amending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to prevent people from using CEQA to block projects for reasons unrelated to environmental protection. (With less than one-third control of the Assembly and Senate, Republicans currently are not recognized as relevant by the state’s Establishment.)
I analyzed Senator Rubio’s proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, introduced near the end of the 2012 legislative session, and concluded it would do little to prevent “greenmail” by unions that exploit CEQA with an objective of coercing developers into signing Project Labor Agreements, neutrality agreements, or other labor agreements. The bill mainly appeared to suppress the flailing and railing of small-time community activists.
On January 13, 2013, the Sacramento Bee presented a point-counterpoint entitled Should California Make Changes to Landmark 1970 Law? Writing for the position YES: Opponents Abuse CEQA to Derail Worthy Projects was Senator Rubio, and writing NO: We Should Resist Efforts to Weaken a Law that Works Well was Tom Adams of the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, who was identified as “the former board president of the California League of Conservation Voters, and a CEQA attorney.”
In his opinion piece, Rubio cites a few examples of groups of community activists or individuals using CEQA to prevent projects from getting built. But he never mentions unions.
Considering that Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is the dominant law firm in representing construction unions in CEQA actions, this omission is particularly stunning! But I’ve seen from experience that Senator Rubio has sympathy for unions that abuse CEQA. I posted the following comment under the article:
There’s a notable omission in Senator Rubio’s critique about parties that abuse CEQA.
On October 21, 2008, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a $700 million expansion and modernization of the Big West/Flying J refinery in Bakersfield. This was the second Environmental Impact Report produced by the county for the project. The only remaining opposition of any substance to the project was from a South San Francisco law firm, which claimed to represent a mysterious organization called “Bakersfield Refinery Coalition.” At the October 21, 2008 meeting, an attorney for this law firm spoke during public comment and submitted a massive “document dump” objecting to the final Environmental Impact Report. It was a classic case of CEQA abuse.
Someone spoke from the public and revealed that the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition was six construction unions that wanted the refinery developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement so that only union workers would build the refinery project. The unions were the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local No. 460, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 428, the Asbestos Workers Local No. 5, the Boilermakers Union Local No. 92, the Ironworkers Local No. 155, and the Road Sprinkler Fitters Union Local No. 669.
One of the Kern County Supervisors was irate about the criticism of the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition and criticized the commenter by name. He then praised the unions.
Which Supervisor? Michael Rubio, who would get union support in his campaign for California State Senate. See the video of the October 21, 2008 Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting, and go to 2:57:40 for Supervisor Rubio’s specific comments about the document dumpers:
Eight-minute video showing the part of the September 15, 2008 Kern County Planning Commission meeting with the CEQA abuse:
And what was the law firm that dumped the documents in front of Supervisor Rubio and the other Kern County Supervisors? Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo.
What’s my point? Whatever CEQA reform you see in 2013 is going to be aimed at people who are trying to stop projects such as “affordable housing” from coming into their neighborhood. Unions won’t be hindered in their comprehensive, professionalized CEQA strategies.