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AB-3051 California Environmental Quality Act: judicial challenge: identification of contributors.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 05/05/2020 09:00 PM
AB3051:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  May 05, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 3051


Introduced by Assembly Member Diep

February 21, 2020


An act to add Section 21172 to the Public Resources Code, relating to environmental quality. An act to add Section 21175 to the Public Resources Code, relating to environmental quality.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 3051, as amended, Diep. Environmental quality: California Environmental Quality Act: housing developments. California Environmental Quality Act: judicial challenge: identification of contributors.
The California Environmental Quality Act requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of an environmental impact report on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment, or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. The act authorizes specified entities to file and maintain with a court an action or proceeding to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul an act of a public agency on grounds of noncompliance with the requirements of the act.
This bill would require a plaintiff or petitioner, in an action brought pursuant to the act, to disclose the identity of a person or entity that contributes $1,000 or more, as specified, toward the plaintiff’s or petitioner’s costs of the action. The bill also would require the plaintiff or petitioner to identify any pecuniary or business interest related to the project or issues involved in the action of any person or entity that contributes $1,000 or more to the costs of the action, as specified. The bill would provide that a failure to comply with these requirements may be grounds for dismissal of the action by the court.

The California Environmental Quality Act requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of an environmental impact report on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. The act also requires a lead agency to prepare a mitigated negative declaration for a project that may have a significant effect on the environment if revisions in the project would avoid or mitigate that effect and there is no substantial evidence that the project, as revised, would have a significant effect on the environment. The act establishes a procedure by which a person may seek judicial review of the decision of the lead agency made pursuant to the act. Existing law requires the Judicial Council to adopt a rule of court to establish procedures applicable to actions or proceedings seeking judicial review of a public agency’s action in certifying the environmental impact report and in granting approval for certain projects to require the action or proceeding, including any potential appeals, to be resolved within 270 days of the filing of the certified record of proceedings with the court.

This bill would extend the application of the above-described rule of court to actions or proceedings seeking judicial review of a public agency’s action in certifying the environmental impact report and in granting approval for housing developments, as defined. The bill would require the Judicial Council, by July 1, 2021, to make necessary amendments to the rules of court to implement this requirement. The bill would prohibit a court from staying or enjoining those housing developments unless it makes specified findings.

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YESNO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code) facilitates the maintenance of a quality environment for the people of the state through identification of significant effects on the environment caused by a proposed project, consideration of alternatives, and implementation of feasible mitigation measures to reduce those effects.
(2) CEQA is premised on transparency in decisionmaking through public dissemination of information about a proposed project’s effect on the environment.
(3) CEQA empowers the public to challenge a project in court for failure to fully comply with CEQA’s exhaustive disclosure and mitigation requirements.
(4) Various entities are increasingly using litigation pursuant to CEQA for competitive purposes to either frustrate a competitor’s project or to extract concessions from a project proponent.
(5) Despite the focus on transparency and public disclosure in the decisionmaking process, shadow groups funded by unknown backers often threaten and bring litigation challenging proposed projects without being required to disclose who is funding the litigation or what financial interests those entities have related to the proposed project.
(6) Project opponents sometimes strategically use litigation to delay a project past its point of economic viability, thereby using litigation to stop projects that could not otherwise be stopped during the decisionmaking process.
(7) California Rules of Court require the disclosure of entities that fund the preparation and submission of amicus briefs to the court.
(8) The state and public have a compelling interest in the disclosure of the identities of entities that fund litigation under CEQA so they can better understand the identities of those organizations participating in the public decisionmaking process, determine whether the petitioner or plaintiff may be suing for competitive or other nonenvironmental purposes, and protect scarce judicial resources by deterring entities from using lawsuits for competitive or other nonenvironmental purposes.
(9) The courts have a compelling interest in disclosure to determine whether the plaintiff or petitioner is seeking to advance environmental, nonenvironmental, or a mix of environmental and nonenvironmental interests in filing an action pursuant to CEQA.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to require plaintiffs and petitioners bringing an action pursuant to CEQA to disclose those persons or entities who make contributions to fund the preparation of the petition and subsequent actions or proceedings and any financial interests they may have related to the proposed project.

SEC. 2.

 Section 21175 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

21175.
 (a) In an action or proceeding to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul any act or decision of a public agency on the grounds of noncompliance with this division, the plaintiff or petitioner shall include an affidavit identifying every person or entity who made a monetary contribution of one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more, or committed to contribute one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more, for the preparation of the petition and subsequent action or proceeding.
(b) The plaintiff or petitioner shall have a continuing obligation throughout the course of the proceeding to identify any person or entity that has made a single or multiple contributions or commitments, the sum of which is $1,000 or more, and that were intended to fund the action or proceeding.
(c) The disclosures required pursuant to subdivisions (a) and (b) shall also include the identity of any pecuniary or business interest that the person or entity has related to the proposed project.
(d) A plaintiff or petitioner may request the court’s permission to withhold the public disclosure of a contributor. The court may grant the request if it finds that the public interest in keeping that information confidential clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
(e) A court may, upon its own motion or the motion of any party, take any action necessary to compel compliance with the requirements of this section, up to and including dismissal of the action or proceeding.
(f) An individual contributing funds to file an action or proceeding pursuant to this division in his or her individual capacity, and not as a representative for an organization or association, has the right to limit disclosure of his or her personal information to an in-camera review by the court.
(g) The information disclosed pursuant to this section may be used to enable a court to determine whether the financial burden of private enforcement supports the award of attorney’s fees in actions or proceedings brought to enforce this division.

SECTION 1.Section 21172 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:
21172.

(a)For the purposes of this section, “housing development” means any activity related to the new construction of houses or dwelling units for the primary purpose of providing decent, safe, and sanitary housing for persons and families of all income levels. A housing development includes, but is not limited to, any building, land, equipment, facilities, or other real or personal property that a local agency determines to be necessary or convenient in connection with the provision of housing, including, but not limited to, streets, sewers, utilities, parks, site preparation, landscaping, and other nonhousing facilities, such as administrative, community, health, recreational, educational, and commercial facilities, and that the local agency determines are an integral part of a housing development.

(b)Notwithstanding any other law, the procedures established pursuant to subdivision (c) shall apply to an action or proceeding brought to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul the certification of the environmental impact report for a housing development or the granting of any approvals for a housing development.

(c)Rules 3.2220 to 3.2237, inclusive, of the California Rules of Court, as may be amended by the Judicial Council, shall apply to any action or proceeding brought to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul the certification or adoption of any environmental impact report for a housing development or the granting of any project approvals, to require the action or proceeding, including any potential appeals therefrom, to be resolved, to the extent feasible, within 270 days of the filing of the certified record of proceedings with the court. On or before July 1, 2021, the Judicial Council shall amend the California Rules of Court, as necessary, to implement this subdivision.

(d)(1)In granting relief in an action or proceeding brought pursuant to this division, the court shall not stay or enjoin the construction or operation of a housing development unless the court finds either of the following:

(A)The continued construction or operation of the housing development presents an imminent threat to the public health and safety.

(B)The site of the housing development contains unforeseen important Native American artifacts or unforeseen important historical, archaeological, or ecological values that would be materially, permanently, and adversely affected by the continued construction or operation of the housing development unless the court stays or enjoins the construction or operation of the housing development.

(2)If the court finds that subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) is satisfied, the court shall only enjoin those specific activities associated with the housing development that present an imminent threat to public health and safety or that materially, permanently, and adversely affect unforeseen important Native American artifacts or unforeseen important historical, archaeological, or ecological values.