The irony is as heavy as an 85 kWh battery pack: California is considering exempting Tesla from some of its famously tough environmental regulations in order to entice the automaker to build its Gigafactory in the Golden State.
An incentive package currently being negotiated in the office of Governor Jerry Brown could include waivers of portions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as well as tax breaks worth as much as $500 million.
The CEQA, which was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan, requires state and local agencies to review development projects and recommend ways to reduce damage to the environment. According to the Los Angeles Times (via Green Car Reports) state officials said Tesla might be allowed to start construction and mitigate any damage later. Also being discussed is whether to limit lawsuits that could slow the project.
Time is of the essence here. As the LA Times put it, the Brown administration is “hustling” to compete with Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for the prestigious battery factory.
“It would help them speed the process,” said State Senator Ted Gaines, a co-author of the incentive bill, after meeting with Tesla officials this week. “We know we have to move quickly.”
“Timing for the Gigafactory is very important,” said Tesla VP of Communications Simon Sproule. “All five states in the running for the gigafactory need to demonstrate, among other factors, that they can help us deliver the factory on time.”
Environmental activists were not amused by the news. “I think it’s a terrible idea,” said David Pettit of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For one thing, it does indicate that we have two systems of law in California – one for the super-rich, and one for the developer doing multifamily housing.”
A waiver of CEQA is “unacceptable,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director of the California Sierra Club. “It sounds like you’re taking away environmental review and taking away citizen enforcement…for a single project.”