Environmentalists were outraged last week when word leaked that California's normally pro-environment governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was seeking waivers on environmental reviews for a dozen major transportation infrastructure projects slated to begin soon around the state. Specifically, Schwarzenegger is hoping that the federal government will "waive or greatly streamline National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements consistent with our statutory proposals to modify the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) for transportation projects."
Greens worry that granting such a waiver would not only have negative effects on California's air, water and wilderness but would also set a dangerous precedent for future projects in that state as well as in other states around the country. According to the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, removing environmental safeguards for these major projects would make obtaining similar waivers for other projects that much easier to obtain. In anticipation of receiving the waiver as requested, Schwarzenegger has frozen some $16 billion in existing, state-approved, environmentally reviewed projects that could start this month and help employ thousands of Californians.
"California can and should continue to lead the way in showing a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand," Dan Jacobson of the nonprofit Environment California told reporters. "Relaxing environmental laws is the wrong way for California."