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The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce held its 141st annual dinner last week, outlining policy objectives for the organization over the coming year.

“One major initiative that the Chamber will be pursuing in 2012 is an exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act,” says a release distributed by the group yesterday. The chamber goes on to list events such as the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, the Farmer’s Open golf tournament, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon as events threatened by the cost of preparing and submitting an environmental impact review prior to holding their events on public property.

“These events bring hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and charitable contributions each year and we cannot risk losing them,” says Ruben Barrales, the chamber’s president and CEO.

To avoid making such groups comply with the act, the chamber has convinced state Senator Juan Vargas to introduce SB 973, dubbed the Save Our Events Act. The bill would exempt certain “limited duration” events, which could include “a recreational tournament, sporting event, youth tournament, racing or walking event, fireworks display, holiday celebration, concert, military appreciation event, block party, wedding, job fair, festival and parade, street fair, beach and neighborhood cleanup, farmers' market, [or] art market,” as well as similar events lasting less than 48 hours.

While not specifically mentioned by the chamber as a goal, the bill would deflate the argument of environmental lawyer Marco Gonzalez, who has successfully argued in court that the city violated the Environmental Quality Act for failing to consider environmental impacts before approving permits to launch fireworks over La Jolla Cove and the Lake Murray reservoir. The city has since moved to create specific exemptions for fireworks displays and other events, which Gonzalez says unfairly elevates exempt events over others that would be required to obey the terms of the Environmental Quality Act. If Vargas’s broader Save Our Events Act passes, it’s likely that Gonzalez’s point becomes moot.

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