California Supreme Court Finds Fresno County EIR Deficient

A recent California Supreme Court decision reminds project proponents and lead agencies of the need for substantive analysis in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). On Christmas Eve 2018, the California Supreme Court published its opinion in Sierra Club et al. v. County of Fresno et al. (Dec. 24, 2018) __Cal.5th__ (Case No. S219783). The Sierra Club challenged the adequacy of Fresno County’s EIR for failing to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)…

In taking up the case, the High Court answered four important questions:

  1. How should courts determine the adequacy of an EIR’s analysis; what standard of review should the court apply?
  2. Does CEQA require an EIR to connect a project’s air quality impacts to specific health consequences?
  3. Did the County incorrectly defer mitigation when it kept the discretion to substitute later measures that may be technically superior?
  4. May a lead agency adopt mitigation measures that do not reduce the significant and unavoidable impacts to a less than significant level?

Implications: The court clearly lays out the fundamental review criteria: the “ultimate inquiry, as case law and the CEQA guidelines make clear, is whether the EIR includes enough detail to enable those who did not participate in its preparation to understand and to consider meaningfully the issues raised by the proposed project.”… (more)

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