New study finds that CEQA lawsuits used most to stop infill and public works projects

This is interesting, given that Metro is certainly targeted by CEQA lawsuits — the agency is currently defending itself in CEQA suits challenging the environmental studies for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. In addition, the Expo Line Construction Authority is defending itself in a CEQA suit against the studies for the project’s second phase.

Those suits have come against a broader discussion about where to set the bar on lawsuits against big projects and how to speed up resolution of such suits. Roughly speaking, proponents of CEQA reform argue such lawsuits are being used to stop legally-approved  projects  or extort concessions from them while opponents of reform say such lawsuits are often the only remedy they have if, in their view, projects aren’t sufficiently studied.

Here’s the update from Metro’s government relations staff:

Metro Government Relations has been participating in a statewide coalition discussing CEQA reform efforts. The coalition today issued a press release regarding a recently released study of CEQA related litigation. The study was done by Holland & Knight who analyzed 95 published court decisions from 1997 to 2012. The study identifies that specific projects such as infill, public works projects are most commonly targeted by CEQA lawsuits. A copy of the study can be found by clicking here, the press release highlighting the findings of the study can be found here and additional information on Projects subject to CEQA Litigation can be found here.

3 replies

  1. This study only looks at cases on appeal, and only at published decisions (unpublished decisions tend to favor public agencies, according to research at UCLA Law on this issue). It doesn’t tell you anything about what happens at the trial court, which is where the full universe of cases goes. Therefore your headline is inaccurate, and this information isn’t as helpful as CEQA reformers would like it to be (unless their aim is to generate misleading headlines like this one).

  2. CEQA lawsuits are successful 50% of the time. Does that mean that 1/2 of the challenged projects were deficient in some way and without the CEQA, those deficiencies would not have been prevented and/or remedied?
    The CEQA process is abused, but if most of the CEQA challenges reviewed were public works projects (which are large in both public monies and public impacts) and half of those projects were found by a judge to be flawed, then I am happy that those challenges were brought forth and the flaws remedied.
    CEQA is the common person’s weapons against powerful organizations, the government being the most powerful of all. CEQA reform needs to happen on the margins, to help prevent the extreme and most punitive of abuses. But the objective and apparently the effectiveness of the law appears to be working.