So why would fracking proponents care to push for changes to CEQA? Currently, California and the United States do not have regulations in place to address fracking, and CEQA has been largely ignored when it comes to this extraction process. But in 2011, California Department of Conservation employees who review permits for new fracking projects (correctly) argued that CEQA review should apply to these projects. In response, the Brown Administration promptly fired them. But with the law on the side of CEQA proponents, companies like Chevron had to know that California’s premiere environmental law would delay and possibly limit their fracking projects. That’s where Thomas and Rubio came in, joined by longstanding business critics of CEQA.
I hate to be cynical about the reform effort, and there certainly are good reasons to reform CEQA in sensible ways. But we need better environmental outcomes in this state, not worse ones. And allowing fracking supporters to rewrite environmental laws strikes me as a bad thing for the state from the get-go. In a way, we can now thank Senator Rubio for bringing his true interests to the public’s attention with this surprising news.