This year is already off to quite a start. While it’s typical for the winter President’s message to highlight the programs and initiatives that we will be working on over the upcoming year, first I’d like to address a topic that many environmental professionals have expressed substantial concern and interest about...our new federal administration.
Not a day goes by without another reminder of the turmoil that is emanating from our nation’s capital, bringing fear and anxiety to many (and I assume hope to some). Our federal environmental policies and institutions are already under siege and I know that many AEP members are deeply troubled by this. Environmental policies have grown from the early 1970s when significant environmental disasters were becoming all too common. Our policies have evolved as we have improved our understanding of our environment and, as our nation has grown, to improve protections to avoid and address critical past, present, and future environmental issues. It was concern over some of these same issues that compelled many of us into our present day jobs. So, other than us sharing a common concern for the environmental practice, where does AEP fit in?
AEP is a 501(c)(6) organization. As a result we are able to perform activities dedicated to improving (or defending) the conditions of our industry, including lobbying and promotion. AEP’s lobbying and legislative activities are guided by our Public Policy Program which is available on AEP website and the AEP Legislative Committee which consists of at least two representatives from each of our nine chapters throughout California. You will see that the Public Policy Program is largely California focused, but it does have broader goals relevant to federal initiatives such as protecting the quality of natural and human environments, supporting science-based regulations, and promoting sound and efficient environmental planning and analysis. We use the Public Policy Program to guide when and how we take active positions on legislative issues and then work with our lobbyist to promote our position.
It’s difficult to predict if we will take active positions on federal initiatives. We often position AEP as a resource for legislators to assist them with crafting more meaningful and workable legislation and may choose to take a similar tack on the federal side. Similarly, it’s not clear how California’s government will attempt to defy or thwart federal initiatives that may undermine efforts to address global climate change or other key environmental issues. In the first few months of 2017, the California legislature is already quite active with State initiatives that could affect CEQA and other environmental policies. On both federal and State matters, AEP’s legislative committee remains committed to encouraging and promoting legislative proposals that enhance, maintain, and protect the quality of the natural
and human environments through smart environmental planning, analysis, and assessment. If you want more information on our legislative program, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any one of our legislative committee members (also listed on our website).
In addition to our active involvement in legislation, an equal goal of AEP is to keep you, our members, informed of those legislative activities that could affect our profession. This year we will be increasing the frequency of legislative and case law updates and many of our chapters will likely be hosting educational events focused on key legislative activities. We will also continue to include legislative updates as part of our workshops and at our annual conference. Lastly, don’t forget to keep an eye out for news and events from the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP), a good resource for news at the federal level. For example, on March 8, they are hosting a webinar titled Environmental Practice in Flux: Transitioning to the Trump Administration. Visit NAEP.org for more information.
In January, we held a Chapter Summit where Board members from all our chapters gathered to learn more about the AEP organization, to discuss ideas on how to improve services to our members and the profession, and to explore how the organization can better support our chapters. For this summit, we also gave additional attention to financial management and the fiduciary responsibilities of our board members. We got great input and will be incorporating many of the ideas into our workplans. A couple of the highlights included expanded use of webinars and improved communication between chapters.
We also got to business quickly. The CEQA Statute and Guidelines book went to the printer in mid-January and should be in members’ hands soon. Our Advanced CEQA Workshops are also in full swing with most venues already reaching capacity or selling out. We have a great annual conference coming up in May in San Francisco. The committee has done a fantastic job at securing a downtown location, the Parc55, that is easily accessible by transit. Additionally, they have creatively planned the 3½ day event to provide us a packed program with numerous sessions to ensure you can always find one that peaks your interest. Later in the year, we will be providing an updated NEPA workshop and an AEP Institute that focuses on SB 743.
Throughout the year, we will be working on ensuring that all these ongoing programs are provided with the highest quality. Additionally, we continue to work on expanding and enhancing the CEQA Portal with additional case law information, expanded searching capabilities, a mitigation measure database, and more whitepapers. I highly encourage you to visit the CEQA Portal accessed through our homepage and check out all of the updates.
In closing, I hope that everyone’s 2017 has been off to a great start and that the rest of the year treats you well. I am excited to continue supporting AEP as its President and look forward to seeing each of you at a future event. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you every have any questions about AEP or suggestions for how we could be serving you better.