A Recent Ruling Involving Unlined Landfills Highlights the Pitfalls of Relying on Categorical Exemptions under CEQA

By Hanson Bridgett :jdsupra – excerpt

Key Points

  • As litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) continues to drive lengthier and costlier environmental reviews, the use of “categorical exemptions” can provide a quick and efficient path towards CEQA compliance – but only if the exemption is legally sound and defensible.
  • California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently published Los Angeles Department of Water and Power v. County of Inyo (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 17, 2021, No. F081389), which provides important guidance regarding the use of categorical exemptions under CEQA.
  • The opinion invalidated the Class 1 exemption for unlined landfills, and the court provided important guidance on how to define “existing facilities” more generally.
  • The court’s ruling on issue exhaustion highlights the importance of following CEQA’s procedural requirements, as non-compliance with CEQA’s public notice provisions will allow challenges to proceed that would otherwise be precluded if the issue was not raised with the lead agency prior to a project being approved…(more)

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