Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Capitol Rally For Valley Air Tackles Fracking, CEQA Reforms

Aug 15, 2012

Around 40 environmental and public health activists from the San Joaquin Valley staged a rally today at the state capitol, pushing for a wide range of regulatory and legislative actions that they claim will improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition traveled to Sacramento to gather public support and to meet with legislators on a number of environmental issues. The group is asking the legislature to fund more air quality monitors in the Valley and in the Sierra, as well as to restore a monitoring site in Arvin that had been moved.

The group also voiced support for a bill by Assemblymember Betsy Butler that would put a moratorium on fracking in the state's oil and gas fields until the state issues regulations on the practice. 

Kevin Hall, the executive director of the Coalition told Valley Public Radio today the group is also concerned about efforts to amend the state's signature environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA. 

"This is the most important public health protection law in California and it should not be tampered with lightly," said Hall.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a draft bill currently circulating in the capitol could result in changes to CEQA that would speed up the development process for projects that comply with local zoning laws. Hall said any changes to CEQA should get a full review. 

"There is a need for CEQA reform, and it should happen in the correct way, not in closed door deal making in the capitol, and at the end of the session when there's no adequate public review or consideration."

Last year, at the end of its session, the legislature passed a handful of CEQA reforms, including an exemption for a planned NFL stadium in Los Angeles, as well as fast tracking developments of over $100 million.

The Coalition also announced today support for a bill by State Senator Kevin de Leòn which would direct funding from the state's anti-global warming "cap and trade" program to communities that have suffered the most from pollution, such as the Central Valley.