Tuesday, a growing coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and tribes made clear that protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state’s landmark environmental protection law, is essential to California’s future.
Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to “reform” (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don’t support their claims. At an event [held] on the steps of the Capitol that morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California’s manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.
The reality is that for more than 40 years, CEQA has been a firewall for California communities, protecting our environment and workplaces from big corporations and developers trying to make a quick profit at the expense of our health and safety. CEQA’s protections help grow our economy and create a cleaner, more sustainable environment for the future.
State Senator Noreen Evans:
“CEQA’s history proves that we can have the nation’s leading environmental and community protection laws and still realize growth and profits that equally benefit our bottom line. California is home to some of the most innovative and sustainable technologies in the world, and CEQA is proof positive that environmental protection works.”
The event was heavily attended by unions and other worker advocates who noted that workers’ rights and environmental protections go hand in hand.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
“Dirty air and water puts workers’ health directly at risk. For workers in industries like construction and agriculture, these risks are pronounced. CEQA gives all workers and communities a voice. CEQA protects us from pollution. It makes our workplaces safer. It makes our communities cleaner. The California labor movement rejects any effort to weaken this landmark law.”
State Building and Construction Trades Council President Robbie Hunter said rolling back CEQA would be a disaster, noting that when deregulation inevitably fails, it’s everyday workers –- not big businesses –- who are left picking up the tab:
“California working families have had enough of big businesses trying to deregulate the laws that protect [us]. From the deregulation of the electric grid that literally left us in the dark, to the deregulation of Wall Street that left hundreds of thousands of Californians homeless and unemployed, we cannot afford another experiment in deregulation. CEQA is working to give California communities a voice in development, and it’s working to keep our members safe on the job site.”
The coalition defending CEQA sent a clear message today — if corporate special interests continue to push for weakening our environmental laws, those efforts would be met with stiff opposition.
According to Ann Notthoff, California Advocacy Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“It’s great to be here today, shoulder to shoulder with our partners in the labor movement and with tribal leaders. The breadth of this coalition in itself shows how important protecting CEQA is across the board in California — it’s both important for our environment and it’s important for jobs.”
(Steve Smith is Director of Communications at the California Labor Federation. His post first appeared on Labor’s Edge and is republished by permission.)