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Sher, enviros weighs in on CEQA debate

Former state Sen. Byron Sher, an environmental leader who termed out in 2004, has written a letter to his former Senate colleagues (or at least the few that are still there) urging Senate Democrats not to give in to GOP budget demands to overhaul the state's environmental quality law, which was signed into law in 1970 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

The letter, also signed by most of the environmental groups in the state - from the Sierra Club to the Nature Conservancy - says the groups are "strongly opposed to any proposal that would weaken the California Environmental Quality Act's ability to help the state meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets."

"For more than 30 years, it has provided an orderly process for developers, local governments and private citizens to analyze and mitigate the environmental impacts of projects," the signers write.

Here's the letter in full:

Dear Senator Perata:

The undersigned, including public interest organizations representing nearly one million California members, are strongly opposed to any proposal that would weaken the California Environmental Quality Act's ability to help the state meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. We urge the Senate to reject any such proposal.

CEQA is California's bedrock environmental protection and public participation statute. For more than 30 years, it has provided an orderly process for developers, local governments and private citizens to analyze and mitigate the environmental impacts of projects. Whether it is protecting California's magnificent coast, protecting habitat for California wildlife, or protecting neighborhoods against toxic pollution and poorly planned projects, CEQA has made the critical difference.

The public is deeply concerned about global warming, and AB 32 has galvanized action around the nation and globe. The law has only begun to be implemented, and we fully support the AB 32 process and want to see it carried out as set forth in the statute.

Californians are counting on the state to provide leadership on global warming reduction and environmental protection, not eleventh hour attacks on the most important laws designed to achieve those goals. AB 32's goals, both ambitious and achievable, were jointly adopted by the Legislature and the Governor. Given the strong commitment of Californians to demonstrate leadership on climate policy, it would be a grave mistake to weaken any of the state's statutory tools for addressing this problem. We urge California's elected leaders to reject damaging last minute attempts to use the state budget as leverage to undermine CEQA and AB 32. California's credibility as an environmental leader is at stake.

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