"CEQA" & Wal-Mart: Lawsuit Abuse By Another Name

A recent editorial in the Merced Sun-Star reminded us all of yet another reason to NOT do business in the state of California: the strong likelihood that your economy-boosting, job-creating, public-amenities-providing endeavor will be sued by uncrupulous people with ulterior motives under California's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In the city of Merced, like so many others in our state, an attorney who does not reside in Merced is opposing a $60 million Wal-Mart distribution center in order to, by his own admission, realize his own personal payday. The distribution center will provide over 1,000 jobs in a county that has an employment rate exceeding 20% and has gained a national reputation for having the second highest home foreclosure rate in the United States.

But despite great economic hardship and community support for the project, an out of town attorney professing concern for Merced is exploring the possibility of delaying the project through litigation. Local residents and their newspaper are challenging the motives of an attorney who wants to kill one of the biggest job creators in the Central Valley. The local newspaper reports that the attorney has (incredibly) stated, "Fortunately, litigation pays." Can we get a collective "ew"?!

While CEQA was well-intentioned as a valuable tool in determing the impacts of a given project on the environment, it has been abused by professional litigants in the same manner as many other well-meaning rules and regulations. CEQA's famously vague framework often leads to litigation that has nothing to do with the environment, halting a variety of projects that would jump-start California's sagging economy.

Sincere environmental analysis needs to get done without an unscrupulous purveyor of lawsuit abuse looking to advance a completely unrelated "cause" while lining his own pockets - at the expense of thousands of job seekers in Merced.

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