LAT: AEG Lobbying for Exemptions from Environmental Lawsuits
While the rest of the local media was busy going ga-ga over the press conference announcing that, if constructed, the Downtown NFL Stadium would be named after Farmers Bank, Patrick McGreevey and Jessica Harrison at the Los Angeles Times revealed that the developer’s for the Downtown Stadium are lobbying for the same exemption from state environmental lawsuits that rival developer Ed Roski earned for his proposed Stadium in the City of Industry.
As top executives from Anschutz’s firm roamed the Capitol to lobby for their project this week and a who’s who of power brokers in sports, business, labor and politics announced their backing for it in Los Angeles, dozens of activist groups were mobilizing against the billionaire builder, pressing legislators not to exempt AEG from provisions of the state’s environmental quality act.
In 2009, billionaire developer Ed Roski convinced the legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger to exempt their stadium plan from any legal challenge even as the neighboring City of Walnut tried to use a lawsuit to force a more complete traffic study for his stadium. Roski turned to the legislature and Governor who changed the law, just for Roski, so that his project’s environmental documents could not be challenged in court.
If AEG gets the same exemption that Roski did, and legislators are already lining up to do AEG’s bidding, it would be an even more egregious violation of the public trust than in the Roski situation. Knowing ahead of time that the only people that would have to approve the environmental documents would be officials with the City of Los Angeles, there would be little incentive to insure that the review was top quality. After all, Mayor Villaraigosa is already celebrating the stadium, and its unlikely that a review would get a serious review from the city if the review is completed during his term.
As the debate over whether or not to protect AEG from legal challenges to their environmental documents heats up, there will doubtless be a lot of discussion about what is “fair.” If the Roski project was exempted from lawsuits, then it’s only “fair” that AEG be protected as well. But the purpose of environmental laws isn’t about creating a checklist for rich people to check off before they do whatever they want to do, it’s about protecting communities, and people, from projects that would do more damage than good.
In other words, if the legislature decides to step in to legal issues again, then it should be judging whether or not an exemption is in the community’s best interest, not whether it’s “fair” to AEG.