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California environmental changes could aid Kings bid
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Proposed changes to California environmental protection law unveiled Wednesday could help Sacramento’s effort to keep its professional basketball team, according to the leader of the state Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who represents the state capital, released details of how he plans to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Law. The changes would streamline the process for challenges filed against urban redevelopment projects.

Under the proposal, statewide standards would be created for noise and traffic issues, and projects meeting those standards would be protected from lawsuits based on those impacts. A project’s aesthetics also could not be used as grounds for suing under the environmental law.

Among the projects that could be sheltered from lengthy court battles is the arena that Sacramento has proposed building in its effort to prevent the Kings from relocating to Seattle.

Steinberg said his proposed changes aren’t aimed specifically at paving the way for the Sacramento arena, which is planned for a site occupied by a downtown mall. Efforts to revise the law began last fall, he said.

“It just so happens that the work we have been doing is this area would undoubtedly help Sacramento in this project if the (NBA) Board of Governors chooses Sacramento,” he told reporters.

Steinberg’s office sent a copy of the proposed changes to the NBA Board of Governors, which could make a final decision early next month on whether the team can move.

An artist’s rendering of the planned Sacramento arena also was released Wednesday, ahead of an evening meeting at City Hall on the project’s environmental review.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has described updating the four-decade-old environmental law as “the Lord’s work,” expressed doubts earlier this month about whether significant changes could be approved this year.

Steinberg said he spoke to Brown on Tuesday.

“I reiterated to him that I wanted to work with him, that we have been hard at work on modernizing CEQA for a number of months,” he said.

Other proposed changes to the law are aimed at renewable energy projects and reducing litigation delays.

The Senate bill is scheduled for a committee vote next week. If approved, a Senate floor vote could occur by the end of May or early June, Steinberg said.