California’s SOCIAL PRIORITIES
David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez are attorneys in the California environmental and land use practice group of Holland & Knight LLC, an international law firm. The practice group periodically publishes analyses of California legal and policy data in support of its continued study of the use, and abuse, of the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970, which allows anyone (even anonymous entities, and entities seeking to advance nonenvironmental objectives) to file a lawsuit alleging inadequate environmental evaluation of any type of project requiring a discretionary approval from any state, regional or local agency. As confirmed by several research studies including those completed by the firm, California courts have upheld approximately half of such lawsuit challenges in reported appellate court cases decided over the past 15 years, most commonly ordering reversal of project approvals pending further environmental studies. The delays and uncertainties caused by CEQA litigation abuse against environmentally benign or even beneficial projects have prompted repeated calls for CEQA reform by California’s elected leaders, but meaningful reform faces fierce opposition from entrenched special interests.