Newsom touts plan to cut red tape, speed up green infrastructure projects
PATTERSON, Calif. (CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans Friday to reform decades-old development processes in order to get green energy projects moving — and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Newsom visited the future site of Proxima Solar Farm in the Central Valley town of Patterson to unveil the new legislation package Friday. He said his administration is releasing new measures to reform permit and project review processes.
Newsom said the eight-bill package is designed to streamline project approval, to maximize California’s federal infrastructure dollars and expedite projects to meet economic and climate goals. He said that alongside his new executive order, the state will speed up construction, clear delayed construction procurement processes and expedite judicial review for projects that have already passed environmental reviews.
The executive order presented Friday launches a strike team to accelerate clean infrastructure projects across the state by implementing a government-wide strategy for planning and development.
The governor said these are the most aggressive reforms to the development process to take place in the last 50 years, with the goal to build California’s clean energy future while creating thousands of jobs.
He pointed to investments in the last two state budgets, alongside the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, to help the state invest up to $180 billion over the next decade in clean infrastructure. He said this could create about 400,000 new jobs.
“By streamlining permitting, cutting red tape, and allowing state agencies to use new types of contracts, these proposals will maximize taxpayer dollars and accelerate timelines of projects throughout the state, while ensuring appropriate environmental review and community engagement,” the governor said in a statement.
He is also establishing a Green Bank Financing Program within the Climate Catalyst Fund — to use federal dollars for climate projects that cut pollution, focusing on projects that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities.
“The only way to achieve California’s world-leading climate goals is to build, build, build — faster,” Newsom said.
“This proposal is the most ambitious effort to cut red tape and streamline regulations in half a century. It’s time to make the most out of taxpayer dollars and deliver results while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Not since the Pat Brown era have we had the opportunity to invest in and rebuild this state to create the clean future Californians deserve," Newsom said, referring to California's 32nd governor now touted as the builder of modern California.
Newsom said the goal is also to restore public trust in their government institutions amid the growing dangers from climate change.
“To recognize that urgency is not just to recognize climate change, that urgency is around actually delivering on what we promote and promise,” he said.
At the briefing, Laura Deehan, director of the advocacy group Environment California, said the state is now number one in the nation for solar power, generating enough to power five million homes.
However, she said the state needs to build enough to generate five times as much clean energy every year.
“Here in California, at least 600 species are at risk of extinction, of being lost forever,” Deehan said. “That’s why it's crucial that we continue to uphold our strong environmental protection in California, so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.”
The state listed projects that could be streamlined including hundreds of solar, wind and battery storage projects, Proposition 1 water storage projects and the Delta Conveyance Project — which proposes modernizing the transport network of waterways comprising the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The governor's legislation builds on efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act and other prior actions lawmakers have taken to streamline state laws and maximize housing production. About 20 CEQA reform bills recently became law in the state.
Newsom credited his predecessor Governor Jerry Brown — Pat Brown's son — for his commitment to CEQA. However, he said, “It was a fault line of sorts. We can’t just keep saying no.”
The governor said he chose Proxima Solar Farm as the place to unveil the new legislation package, as it broke ground this past August and is expected to be operational by December.
The facility could power 60,000 homes in the region, and can generate up to 210 megawatts of renewable energy and 177 megawatts of battery energy storage. NextEra Energy says the project should create 300 construction jobs and generate $35 million in local revenue.