At the site of a future solar farm in the Patterson, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday the state’s most ambitious permitting and project review reforms in a half-century to build California’s clean energy future while creating thousands of new jobs.
The measures will facilitate and streamline project approval and completion to maximize California’s share of federal infrastructure dollars and expedite the implementation of projects that meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate, and social goals.
“The only way to achieve California’s world-leading climate goals is to build, build, build – faster,” Newsom said. “This proposal is the most ambitious effort to cut red tape and streamline regulations in half a century. It’s time to make the most out of taxpayer dollars and deliver results while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Not since the Pat Brown era have we had the opportunity to invest in and rebuild this state to create the clean future Californians deserve.”
The Governor visited the future site of Proxima Solar Farm in Patterson to unveil the legislation. The facility, which broke ground in August 2022 and is expected to be operational as early as December, could power 60,000 homes in the surrounding region and is capable of generating up to 210 megawatts of clean, renewable energy and 177 megawatts of battery energy storage. NextEra Energy expects the project to create 300 construction jobs and generate $35 million in local revenue.
Some examples of projects that could be streamlined include:
· Hundreds of solar, wind, and battery storage projects
· Transit and regional rail construction
· Clean transportation, including maintenance and bridge projects
· Water storage projects funded by Proposition 1
· Delta Conveyance Project
· Semiconductor fabrication plants
· Wildlife crossings along the I-15 corridor
The legislation builds on the Administration’s efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act to better serve the needs of today while also preserving the state’s historic commitment to protecting the environment. It also complements actions the Governor and the Legislature have taken to streamline state laws to maximize housing production, with 20 CEQA reform bills signed into law in recent years.
Through investments over the past two state budgets, as well as funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, California will invest up to $180 billion over the next decade in clean infrastructure, which will create 400,000 good jobs while helping meet the state’s climate goals. By streamlining permitting, cutting red tape, and allowing state agencies to use new types of contracts, these proposals will maximize taxpayer dollars and accelerate timelines of projects throughout the state, while ensuring appropriate environmental review and community engagement.
The announcement followed a report urging permitting reform from Infrastructure Advisor to California, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and California Forward.
Together, these proposals could:
· Cut project timelines by more than three years
· Save businesses and state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars
· Reduce paperwork by hundreds of thousands pages
Newsom also signed an executive order to stand up a strike team to accelerate clean infrastructure projects across the state by implementing an all-of-government strategy for planning and development.
The legislative package and executive order will:
Speed Up Construction: Current construction procurement processes drive delays and increase project costs. The Governor’s proposals include methods to offer a streamlined process for project delivery to reduce project timeframes and costs.
Expedite Court Review: Legal challenges often tie up projects even after they’ve successfully gone through environmental review. These proposals would authorize expedited judicial review to avoid long delays on the back end and advance projects without reducing the environmental and government transparency benefits of CEQA.
Streamline Permitting: Makes various changes to California law to accelerate permitting for certain projects, reducing delays and project costs.
Address cumbersome CEQA processes across the board: Streamlines procedures around document retention and review.
Maximize Federal Dollars: Establish a Green Bank Financing Program within the Climate Catalyst Fund so that the state can leverage federal dollars for climate projects that cut pollution, with an emphasis on projects that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities.