California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is still talking about changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as the legislature works through its last two weeks in session in 2013.
His vehicle for CEQA amendments – Senate Bill 731 – is still alive. It contains language that would supposedly help developers of urban infill projects to circumvent petty environmental objections of small neighborhood groups. Unions have publicly refrained from taking a position, but reportedly their lobbyists have objected behind the scenes to any provisions that would weaken the ability of unions to use CEQA as a tool to pressure developers to sign union agreements.
Steinberg also plans to “gut and amend” a bill and transform it into a bill that gives special breaks from CEQA to Sacramento Basketball Holdings LLC, the developer of the planned new arena for the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team. It’s expected that all construction companies will have to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to build this “entertainment and sports center.”
In the meantime, examples continue to emerge of union involvement in the permitting process for public and private projects in California. A June 25, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org (Collect Them All: Environmental Objections of California Unions in 2013) listed nine identified projects. That list is now up to 23 projects, and surely there are some projects targeted by unions that are still missing from the list. Plus there are four more months in 2013 for additional union “greenmail.”
Here’s the revised list of union CEQA actions in 2013:
1. Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project, City of Pasadena
Here’s a chronology of how the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, representing California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), objected on environmental grounds to a municipal power plant project on one hand while negotiating a Project Labor Agreement for the same project on the other hand:
2. Napa Pipe Project, County of Napa
May 20, 2013 – Request for a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 343, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 180, pretending to be the “Napa Coalition for Responsible Development.”
I wrote about the union environmental objections to this project in my May 28, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley.
3. Agincourt Solar Project and Marathon Solar Project, County of San Bernardino
February 1, 2013 – Comments on the Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declarations – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”
This one had a happy ending!
April 23, 2013 – Announcement from California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar” – the Western Burrowing Owl, the Desert Tortoise, the LeConte Thrasher, and the Joshua Tree are saved – let’s build!
4. VWR International Supply and Distribution Facility, City of Visalia
After the Teamsters Joint Council 7 and fellow plaintiffs flipped a lower court decision by winning CEQA arguments (among other arguments) on appeal in Coalition For Clean Air v. City of Visalia, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 948 won an NLRB-supervised representation election for employees of the new VWR International facility in Visalia.
Footnote 4 in the September 14, 2012 appeals court decision states that “Respondent VWR International’s brief alleges that the CEQA action was originally commenced by the Teamsters union and one of its local officers, in an effort to halt construction of the Visalia facility, fearing that its completion as a non-union facility would lead to the closure of a unionized facility in Brisbane.”
5. Pioneer Green Energy Solar Project, County of Kern
Unions don’t seem to regard this project as particularly “green,” but maybe the green of money from a Project Labor Agreement will change their minds.
6. Imperial Valley Solar Company 2, County of Imperial
February 15, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Imperial Citizens for Responsible Industry” and also February 18, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184.
Two union groups going after this one. Do you ever wonder if the Sonoran desert toads know they’re being abandoned to be squashed by heavy equipment when unions get their Project Labor Agreements?
7. Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Plant, County of Mono
January 29, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and also January 30, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local Union No. 783.
This project is getting a double whammy, including from a union whose members travel to Mono County to “enjoy its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.”
8. Three Rocks Solar, County of Fresno
May 31, 2013 – Request to Fresno County Board of Supervisors to deny appeal of Planning Commission’s decision to deny Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration and conditional use permit – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”
As if the Fresno County Planning Department didn’t already have enough paper from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. Imagine the trees unions are cutting down to protect the environment.
9. Dignity Health Elk Grove Medical Campus Project, City of Elk Grove
January 18, 2013 – Request for all documents referenced in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 340, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 162.
Even if the developer pays for it, is there any dignity for city employees when law firms force them to spend a huge amount of time collecting a huge pile of paper? Is this how government employees should be serving the people?
10. World Logistics Center Project – City of Moreno Valley
This would be the largest master-planned warehouse complex in the United States, and unions want their share of the estimated $3.5 billion in construction and 20,000 permanent jobs.
11. Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project, Imperial County
Unions decided to file a lawsuit (Desert Protective Council et al v. United States Department of the Interior et al) challenging the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Environmental Impact Report to overturn a May 2012 decision made by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, California Desert District, El Centro Field Office to allow 112 wind turbine generators.
12. Acheson Commons (2133 University Avenue), City of Berkeley
May 8, 2013 and June 13, 2013 – Requests for Zoning Adjustments Board not to approve Use Permits for the project – Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, pretending to be “Berkeley Residents for Sustainable Development.”
Allegedly the “largest apartment complex ever planned for Berkeley’s downtown,” this project moved forward after some sort of deal with the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, as reported in this July 11, 2013 article City’s Largest Apartment Building Ever Gets Go-Ahead.
13. Campo Verde Solar Project, Imperial County
Laborers Local Union No. 1184 filed a lawsuit against Imperial County to stop First Solar, Inc. from building the 139-megawatt Campo Verde photovoltaic solar project.
14. Citation Residential Project, City of Milpitas
A California appellate court rejected an appeal from the Carpenters Local Union No. 405 related to the union’s efforts to challenge approval of a 732-unit condominium project. See the July 16, 2013 decision in May v. City of Milpitas.
15. Cordes Ranch Specific Plan, City of Tracy
A construction union has CEQA objections to a commercial and industrial development proposed in Tracy.
16. Palen Solar Electric Generating System in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission
While California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) reached an agreement to end its interference with permitting for this solar thermal power plant, the Laborers union in Riverside County is just getting started.
17. Desert Harvest Solar Project, Riverside County
Another solar project under assault. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) has not objected to the project, perhaps because the IBEW Union Local No. 440 has the electrical work.
18. Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study, City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports
April 29, 2013 – Objections to the Final Environmental Impact Report – SEIU United Service Workers West; May 29, 2013 – Lawsuit Against City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports – SEIU United Service Workers West.
Another one of the those CEQA lawsuits that allegedly rarely happen. This one comes courtesy of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West, which claims to represent 2,000 Los Angeles International Airport workers, including passenger service workers, security officers, sky caps, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, and cargo handlers.
19. Sun Valley Energy Project in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission
Better late than never. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) submitted a petition on February 8, 2006 to the California Energy Commission to intervene on this project.
20. One South Market, City of San Jose
Staff Report on Appeal of Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council to One South Market Street Project (includes June 25, July 9, and July 12 letters from law firm ofAdams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo)
I wrote about this union CEQA appeal in the August 13, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One.
21. Avalon Bay Communities – Dublin Station – Transit Center, City of Dublin
Carpenters Local Union No. 713 objected to this project in order to control the work. The union filed a lawsuit after the Dublin City Council rejected their appeal. On March 7, 2013, a California Appeals Court sided with the City of Dublin in Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin.
22. Basin Street Properties – Riverfront Mixed Use Project, City of Petaluma
Pretending to be “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development,” the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council managed to delay an August 13, 2013 Petaluma Planning Commission meeting with its CEQA objections to the Riverfront Mixed Use Project.
23. Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Water Project in Riverside County, State Water Resources Control Board
Water would move back and forth between two old mining pits at different elevations to generate electricity during peak hours of usage. The Laborers Union is concerned.
24. Apple Campus 2, City of Cupertino (added October 22, 2013)
The Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West is trying to organize employees of companies that provide security under contract to the major companies in Silicon Valley, including Apple. It submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report and comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the massive proposed Apple 2 Campus.
I wrote about the union environmental objections to this project in my October 19, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Threatens to Block Apple, Inc. “Spaceship” with Environmental Lawsuit.
25. Regional Seawater Desalination Project, City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District (scwd2) (added October 25, 2013)
26. CleanPowerSF/Shell Community Choice Aggregation Program, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (added October 25, 2013)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 1245, represented by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, informed the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that it would need to prepare an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA for the program. IBEW Local No. 1245 represents workers for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). It wanted Shell to sign a Project Labor Agreement. See the union’s web site Stop the Shell Shock.
Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.