California Supreme Court to Decide Major CEQA, Climate Change Case
By :legal-planet – excerpt
Justices’ Latest Grant of Review Continues Supreme Court’s Focus on Environmental Law
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday granted review in an important case at the intersection of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and one of the state’s most important climate change laws. The case, Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments, is the latest in an unprecedented series of CEQA cases taken up by the Supreme Court. It’s also the justices’ first opportunity to confront the important legal and policy issues presented by the landmark 2008 climate change legislation popularly known as SB 375.
SB 375, formally titled the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, for the first time links California regional transportation planning and funding with state land use regulation and planning–the ultimate goal being to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from California’s transportation sector, the state’s single largest source of those emissions. The legislation does so by requiring each of the state’s regional transportation agencies to incorporate a “sustainable communities strategy” (SCS) into its periodically updated regional transportation plan. SB 375’s objective is to incentivize more sustainable land use and transportation practices, thereby reducing California’s aggregate GHG emissions…
Must the environmental impact report for a regional transportation plan include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals reflected in Executive Order No. S-3-05 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act?… (more)
High-Speed Rail Report Fraught With “Issues” and “Risks”
Risk, time and money remain the major problems for the construction of California’s high-speed rail project. That’s seen in the biannual Legislative Report of the California High-Speed Rail Authority released this month, as required by law…
The report is a serious attempt of the CHSRA to let the California Legislature know the true status of the program. It includes four pages of “Issues” and 13 pages of “Risks.”…
However, as CalWatchdog.com noted at the time, the groundbreaking was more appearance than reality, as progress on the project continues at a slow pace…
calwatchdog Lawsuits – excerpt
Absent from the CHSRA’s Legislative Report is the newest suit, filed on Feb. 9, against CalTrain, the Bay Area commuter system. The suit was filed by the city of Atherton, the Transportation and Education Defense League and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail.
Among other things, the lawsuit, as CalWatchdog.com reported at the time:…
Finally, the lawsuit over using $250 million of cap-and-trade money to build the high-speed rail project also was not disclosed in the Legislative Report. As CalWatchdog.com reported:
“TRANSDEF charged that cap-and-trade revenues, according to AB32, only can go to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. TRANSDEF President David Schonbrunn said in the statement, ‘The claimed GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reductions are a very expensive fantasy,’ because the California High-Speed Rail Authority depends ‘on $30 billion of project funding that the Authority doesn’t have and can’t get.’” … (more)
SoCal Air Gets a Pass From 9th Circuit
By MATT REYNOLDS, Courthouse News, 3/12/15 – excerpt
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday declined environmentalists’ calls for tougher regulation of smog in Southern California, ruling that federal standards to limit the pollution are adequate.
A provision of the Clean Air Act requires that major polluters, including power plants and refineries, pay emission fees in parts of the South Coast Air Basin with the dirtiest air.
South Coast Air Quality Management District substituted that program with another that draws on other financial sources, including state and federal grants.
After the Environmental Protection Agency approved the alternate program, National Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment filed a petition of review in early 2013, arguing that the district program did not do enough to reduce pollution from stationary sources in the South Coast Air Basin, in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
South Coast Air Quality Management District counsel Barbara Baird said that a ruling in the groups’ favor would require about 300 major stationary sources of pollution to pay combined emission fees of $30 million to $50 million.
“It would have been a hardship on some of the public agencies in this area, if we had not been able to use this alternative method of compliance.” Baird said in an interview. “We think the plaintiffs are just wrong if they assume they would get something better out of the other program than they get out of this one.”
The New England Journal of Medicine this month published a study concluding that air pollution has been “trending downward progressively over the past several decades in Southern California.”… (more)
I could be wrong, but I think SF just got hit with a $30 million fee. Do we have to lose jobs to fight the fee?
Court Protects CEQA Categorical Exemptions by Limiting Unusual Circumstances Exception
by Kenneth A. Kecskes : mondaq – excerpt
Real estate developers who have opponents alleging that CEQA exemptions are unavailable to them because the environmental impacts of their projects alone are unusual won an important victory this week in the California Supreme Court. Even if a project has negative environmental impacts, a categorically exempt project is spared from CEQA review so long as the project itself is consistent with the class of projects that typically qualify for the exemption, the Court held… (more)