California Construction Unions Saved the Planet Again in 2015
California construction trade unions continue to protect the environment from the scourges of renewable energy and infill development. A chart below provides examples of their achievements for the planet in 2015.
Meanwhile, 2015 ends with the annual chatter at the state capitol that “maybe next year” will be the year that the California legislature amends the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to end such nonsense. Inspiring this goal for 2016 is an August 2015 study, In the Name of the Environment: Litigation Abuse Under CEQA, which provides new evidence about the distortion of this law by unscrupulous parties.
California’s environmental laws give the public significant authority in ensuring that state agencies and local governments appropriately protect the environment when considering new projects or programs. Allowing the public to play a key role in environmental protection is a check and balance against government ignorance, incompetence, and corruption.
But giving the public a legal role in environmental protection provides a powerful weapon for organizations or individuals who have selfish or ideologicial motivations to prevent construction. It also allows businesses to hinder the growth and prosperity of their competition. And it gives organizations an opportunity to extort private developers and public agencies into making payouts or granting economic concessions that aren’t related to environmental protection. (This practice is sometimes called “greenmail” because it is blackmail using environmental laws.)
The most-feared wielders of California’s environmental laws are labor unions. If you doubt this, note over the years how often corporations and business groups condemn all kinds of CEQA abuse in public without ever mentioning unions as a chief ringleader of the practice. A typical example is this April 15, 2015 op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune: CEQA Reform: Don’t Allow Gaming of the System.
A reader would not learn that one of the most aggressive advocates of union CEQA abuse victimized one of the co-authors of that op-ed with one of the most notorious examples of union CEQA abuse. Read the www.UnionWatch.org story at Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center.
The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (with its front group California Unions for Reliable Energy, or CURE) remains the primary obstacle to CEQA reform, not environmentalists or even other unions that routinely use CEQA to win concessions. They are the gatekeepers to CEQA exemptions granted for government agencies and private developers. Two kinds of projects have risen above state environmental protection: major league professional sports facilities and high-speed rail. It is not coincidental that construction trade unions have Project Labor Agreements or Project Labor Agreement commitments on such work.
Here’s a chart of construction union activity in 2015 involving the California Environmental Quality Act or the Warren-Alquist Act (for power plant licensing at the California Energy Commission).
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.