From our colleague Wayne Rosenbaum:

As Juliet Cho blogged about in our California Environmental Law blog, California Governor Jerry Brown  signed the Jobs and Economic Development through Environmental Leadership Act of 2011 (also known as AB 900) into law last September. The law aims to provide an incentive for applicants to move forward with their development projects by requiring that any challenge to a “leadership project” Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) will be venued immediately in the Court of Appeal.  The court will then have a maximum of 175 days to issue its decision on the challenged EIR. For a description of the qualifying criteria of a “leadership project” see Juliet’s blog post.

AB 900 also required the Judicial Council to adopt rules of court to implement the new law. Recently, the Council announced its proposed rules.  These rules, which are to be adopted no later than July 1, 2012, impose a highly expedited briefing schedule and require payment  of a special $100,000 fee to the Court to reimburse for costs related to the expedited handling of the case.  Currently, at least one Solar PV project has applied for special handling under AB 900.

It remains a question whether the added costs for this expedited process are worth it for Solar PV and other developers.  While no project has actually gone through the process as of this date, utility scale Solar PV projects should carefully consider the possible benefits.  One benefit of immediate appellate review would be a dramatic reduction of the judicial review period by twelve to eighteen months.  Having the Governor certify the project as an environmentally superior major job creator would also likely expedite the administrative review process before the land use agency.