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The California Environmental Quality Act – The Year 2014 in Review

(Mike, a Cox Castle & Nicholson partner, is the Co-Author of the CEQA treatise “Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act.”) 

Click here to review an in depth summary of the legislative and case law developments in 2014 relating to CEQA and its environmental review requirements.

Once again, in 2014 there were a number of substantial CEQA developments coming from the State Legislature, the California Supreme Court, and the Courts of Appeal. In some cases, certainty and predictability are enhanced. In others, the world of CEQA has become more complicated for developers and their counsel.

AB 52 expanded CEQA’s reach, requiring evaluation of potential impacts to “tribal cultural resources.” It includes provisions governing notice to tribes, consultation with tribes, and the confidentiality of information about tribal cultural resources. There were also minor changes affecting statutory exemptions from CEQA.

The California Supreme Court issued one CEQA decision in 2014, holding that a local legislative body does not need to comply with CEQA before approving a voter-sponsored initiative measure. In this case, Tuolumne Jobs, the initiative granted all the legislative approvals needed for a Wal-Mart store – with no CEQA review.

In 2015, expect the California Supreme Court to make a great deal of CEQA news. There are more CEQA cases pending before the Court than ever before. Those cases address issues including “fair share mitigation,” CEQA exemptions, the impact of existing environmental conditions on future residents, the standard of review for “subsequent” environmental documents, the role under CEQA of the California Endangered Species Act, the time during the administrative process at which a litigant needed to assert a CEQA claim, the use of “business as usual” environmental baselines, the scope of judicial review, and the need for CEQA review of rail projects. So, stay tuned. We will comment on these decisions in this blog as they happen during the year.

Lastly, in addition to cases mentioned above which will be heard by the Supreme Court, appellate court decisions in 2014 were highlighted by two November rulings that could substantially complicate the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions. Those cases also may be headed to the California Supreme Court, as petitions for review are now pending in both. There also were a number of appellate decisions that provide helpful clarity, including decisions regarding whether resources are historic, the requirements for program EIRs, and reliance on agency standards to mitigate impacts.

 

For the comprehensive report, click here.

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