• Proposed Amendments to State CEQA Guidelines on Climate Change
  • July 16, 2009
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Riverside Office
  • Public comments accepted until August 20

    The California Natural Resources Agency (Resources Agency) has published proposed amendments to the State CEQA Guidelines to address climate change impacts, as required under SB 97. 

    The proposed amendments would require a lead agency to take into account greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when examining the environmental impacts of a proposed project under CEQA, as follows:

    Assess potential greenhouse gas emission impacts

    Rather than require full quantification under any and all circumstances, the amendments would require that a lead agency “make a good faith effort, based on available information, to describe, calculate or estimate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from a project.” 

    Determine the significance of those impacts

    The amendments would allow lead agencies to choose their own reasonable significance threshold (so long as this choice is supported by substantial evidence).  Some lead agencies have already begun this process by relying on the draft threshold prepared by staff of the California Air Resources Board or on one of the thresholds recommended in California Air Pollution Control Officers Association guidance.  

    Consider all feasible measures to mitigate any significant impacts

    The proposed amendments do not identify specific detailed mitigation measures. Rather, they list broad categories of mitigation measures that may be used, including:

    • measures in an existing plan or mitigation program;
    • implementation of project features designed to reduce emissions;
    • off-site measures such as offsets;
    • measures that sequester GHGs; or
    • identification of specific measures in a land use plan to be implemented on a project-by-project basis.

    The Resources Agency’s Initial Statement of Reasons include a finding of no financial impact because the amendments "do not create new requirements” but rather merely "interpret and clarify" existing law.  This finding thus would require valuation of climate change impacts in CEQA documents now, even before final adoption of State CEQA Guidelines on climate change.

    Under SB 97, the Resources Agency is required to certify and adopt new climate change guidelines by January 1, 2010.

    The Resources Agency posted the proposed amendments for public review on July 3, 2009. The posted proposed amendments are substantially the same as the version submitted to the Resources Agency by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in April 2009, after earlier public review and comment.

    The Resources Agency is accepting public comments until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20.  Public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 18 in Sacramento and Aug. 20 in Los Angeles.