Regulatory “reform” shows how in need of reform California is

Governor Brown may try to make political hay out of signing three “regulatory reform” bills into law, but the bills (AB 900, SB 292 and SB 226) really serve best to illustrate just how grossly over-regulated California has become.

The official CEQA process chart

Take AB 900 for example. Please.  It specifies certain types of projects that can qualify for expedited processing under the onerous, labyrinthine California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Actually, it will be more like projects that think they qualify for regulatory relief will be free to attempt to get through CEQA easily, but the reforms themselves are complicated and, worse, they’re untested by California’s green-leaning courts.

Among projects eligible for supposedly expedited processing are infill projects that are highly energy efficient.  Never mind that vacant hulks of these sorts of projects clog the California cityscape, unrented and unloved.  The California dream remains a suburban one of back yards and cars, and despite what urban planners and environmental activists preach, we’re not yet ready to emulate New Yorkers and live in cramped high-rises by train stations.  Does AB 900 make it easier to process suburban subdivisions? Oh, please. Do you have to ask?

The bill also gives a special blessing to wind and solar energy projects that will pump intermittent blips of high-priced power into the grid, but turns a cold shoulder on any sort of energy facility – including carbon-free hydro power – that actually can be counted on to consistently provide affordable energy.  Green manufacturing also gets a pass – but California is a state that needs jobs desperately, so why should the Solyndras of the world get a break when old-school manufacturing, which actually turns out products that compete in the marketplace, does not?

SB 292 gives a CEQA break to great big projects, as long as they’re football stadiums in downtown Los Angeles.  Because, heck, if we steal the Packers from Green Bay we’ll have new green jobs. At least for guys wearing jerseys.

Finally, and probably worst of all, SB 226 lets you sort-of off the CEQA hook if you’re putting solar energy cells on the roof or over the parking lot of an existing building.  Or, put another way, California regulators currently can force you to do a costly, time consuming environmental impact report if you want to do what they’re harping at you to do and install solar.

By relieving solar installations from at least some CEQA grief, the bill is actually telling us that up to now, California has treated the savior of our heated-up world, solar energy, as something so nasty and dirty that it requires careful study, deep analysis and endless public comment before the state’s hyper-regulators would let you do something as potentially damaging to the Earth Mother as actually use it.

If these bills represent the best the legislature can do to streamline regulations in California, the armies of lawyers, lobbyists and consultants (myself included) who make a fine living off of trying to tame the state’s regulatory beast have nothing to worry about.

A hat-tip to three members of that army – lawyers at Allen Matkins – for their review of the three bills.

California Universities are the Best

Cross-posted at Clarity Blog

Finally, a survey has shown that through diligence, hard work and unending commitment, California’s universities – Berkeley in particular – are the best in the whole wide world.  Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons.  Here’s why:

The University of California, Berkeley, has been crowned top … of the world’s most environmentally friendly higher education  institutions.

The “UI Green Metric Ranking of World Universities”  is based on several factors, including green space, electricity  consumption, waste and water management and eco-sustainability policies.

Based  on research and surveys conducted by the Green Metric team at the  University of Indonesia on thousands of other universities around the  world,  University of California, Berkeley, United States scored best  with a points total of 8,213 and is the greenest campus in terms of its  environment policy.

Berkeley got the title, but the award really goes to the entire UC system, the UC Board of Regents and the UC faculty as a whole, because the green policies established at Berkeley are not unlike those at all the UC campuses.  So it’s fair to say that California has the greenest public institutions of higher education in the world.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m all about green space, conservation and eco-sustainable policies.  Whether there’s a looming eco-catastrophe or not (I think it’s “not”), it makes sense to be good stewards of our shared resources.  No, the problem I have with Berkeley’s new glory is that it’s really just the outgrowth of the deeper commitment to environmentalist brainwashing education that goes on at UC campuses.  If it weren’t for Regents who have bought into environmental doctrine, a faculty that’s bought into environmental extremism, and a curriculum that ensures wave after wave of freshly minted environmentalist soldiers will be graduating every spring and going into battle for Gaea, Berkeley would not be at the top of the green university rankings.

It’s what I refer to as California’s PEER Axis, standing for progressives, environmentalists, educators and reporters.  I wrote about it a few months ago in a well-read op/ed that ran just after the mid-term election on the national news website The Daily Caller:

While the established political parties and their consultants will  ignore California and pore over campaigns in other states for clues on  how to capitalize on — or crush — the Tea Party’s influence, the Left  will be studying what happened in California, so they can replicate it  the next time around. What they will find is not so much a magic formula  but a vast progressive infrastructure they will then work to replicate  elsewhere.

I call this infrastructure the PEER Axis, for the progressives,  environmentalists, educators and reporters who collectively run  California and influence the underpinnings of America. The PEER Axis  remains powerful because politicians and political movements may come and go, but government bureaucrats and  regulators, environmentalists and social justice activists, and their  supporters in education and the media are pretty much forever. The  structure of California ensures that appropriately indoctrinated college  graduates will continue to fill the personnel pipelines that run from  Berkeley, UCLA and other liberal universities straight into the  progressive movement.

Many end up in government offices in Sacramento, where they write policies that are parroted in other states around the nation, as evidenced by the fact that the federal government  is following California’s lead in setting the next round of vehicle  fuel economy standards. Others will go to work at California’s giant  environmentalist organizations, social justice NGOs and activist law  firms, or the powerful public employee unions. Some will stay on the  campuses, turning out future generations of progressives and writing  studies to reinforce and justify progressive government policies, and  those who graduate into the media will publicize these efforts and  belittle any contrarian thinking. Many will find jobs in California’s  foremost culture-bending venture, Hollywood, where they will pummel all  the world with green messages (The China Syndrome, Avatar), anti-corporate tirades (Metropolis, Wall Street), anti-war propaganda (Apocalypse Now, In the Valley of Elah) and movies challenging conventional values (Milk, Juno).

Wherever they end up, they will be greeted by like-minded alumnae  ready to show them the ropes so they, too, can form and implement  policy, bring lawsuits, and mold the next generation.

In my 30 years as an Orange County and California public affairs specialist (maybe even a guru, now that my hair is gray), I’ve watched the PEER Axis in action.  It has transformed California from a state that spawned great private enterprises and embraced needed public infrastructure into a state that could easily win the same award Berkeley just one, if such an award were given.  Defeating the PEER Axis isn’t an option I see playing out in my lifetime, so I’ve made it my work – in business at Laer Pearce & Associates, and with the Crazifornia project – to win skirmishes, shine a spotlight on their activities and in so doing, dull the edge of their blade. Care to join us in the good fight?

Crazifornia on CalWatchdog

The good folks at Pacific Research Institute’s CalWatchdog blog – Steve Greenhut, to be specific – posted another one of my op/eds today.  Here’s a little intro to encourage you to read more:

If Gov. Jerry Brown has any chance of draining California’s budget swamp of red ink, he’s going to need more than aggressive spending cuts and votes for more taxes, as he proposes. He’s also going to need a resurgence in California’s business environment, but at one of the state’s few commerce success stories, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are more signs of classic California non-competitiveness than there are of a return to health for the state’s business sector.

Yes, activity is up by single digits over last year at the ports, which are America’s busiest, as companies slowly bring in more goods from Asia to rebuild inventories they had let drop through the Great Recession. But even as more than 12 million containers will be unloaded at Southern California docks this year, there are grave threats to the future of Southern California’s logistics behemoths, and they’re posed by exactly the same elements that threaten the rest of the state’s economy – powerful unions and California’s incessant compulsion to be a world leader in the environmental movement without thought to the cost.

To read the rest of the piece, click through to CalWatchdog.

Here are the other Crazifornia op/eds they’ve run:

Alternative Energy Makes State’s Budget Redder

My friends at CalWatchdog just published my critique of the state’s insane energy policies.  Why does California give incentives to folks to buy electric cars when every electric car sold takes money out of our all-too-broke budget?  Why do people in Washington and Oregon fear California’s commitment to green energy?

Find out here.  Please click through – it’ll make Steve Greenhut very happy.