In a lengthy opinion tackling several of CEQA’s hot topics, a court of appeal has rejected the EIR for the Martis Valley West project, finding its Lake Tahoe water quality analysis, GHG and traffic mitigation measures, and energy analysis inadequate. League to Save Lake Tahoe Mountain Area Preservation Foundation v. County of Placer, 75 Cal.App.5th

Petitioner could not avoid the deferential standard of review under the Planning and Zoning Law regarding an agency’s interpretation of its own general plan by framing the challenge as an “inconsistency” between the project and the general plan that required further analysis in the EIR pursuant to the CEQA Guidelines. Stop Syar Expansion v County

Several months ago, a court of appeal upheld a South Coast air district EIR for an oil refinery modernization project, concluding the district had discretion to use  “near-peak” emissions, rather than average emissions, as the baseline for calculating the air pollution expected from the project. Communities for a Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality

An EIR that did not squarely respond to detailed comments recommending additional mitigation measures has been held not to comply with CEQA. Covington v. Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, 3d Dist. Court of Appeal Case No. C080342 (certified for publication 12/23/2019). The court of appeal emphasized that where an EIR identifies certain

A court of appeal has overturned a city’s mitigated negative declaration for a small mixed-use development in a historic overlay district, holding that aesthetic and traffic issues require the preparation of an environmental impact report. Protect Niles v. City of Fremont, 25 Cal. App. 5th 1129 (2018).

The proposed project, comprising 98 housing units

The California Supreme Court has overturned the environmental impact report for a mixed-use development project, holding that the EIR inadequately explained the human health consequences of significant air pollutant emissions that would result from the development.  Sierra Club v. County of Fresno, Cal. Supreme Court Case No. S219783 (Dec. 24, 2018).    In so doing,

A court of appeal has rejected CEQA and public trust challenges to a State Lands Commission lease extension allowing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to continue operating through 2025.  World Business Academy v. California State Lands Commission, 24 Cal. App. 4th 476 (2018).

Pacific Gas & Electric Company plans to cease operating Diablo Canyon in 2025, when the plant’s federal licenses will expire.  The plant’s cooling water intake and discharge structures are on state-owned submerged and tidal lands, for which the Commission had issued leases to PG&E expiring in 2018 and 2019.  The Commission granted PG&E a consolidated lease extension through 2025, relying on CEQA’s categorical exemption for continued operation of existing facilities.

CEQA’s categorical exemptions are subject to several exceptions that can force a lead agency to prepare a negative declaration or an environmental impact report.  The “unusual circumstances” exception applies “where there is a reasonable possibility that the activity will have a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances.”  Here, Diablo Canyon opponents argued that continued operation of the state’s last nuclear power plant was rife with unusual circumstances that could cause significant environmental effects.

To show that the unusual circumstances exception applies, normally a challenger must show both:  1) unusual circumstances; and 2) a reasonable possibility of a significant environmental effect due to those unusual circumstances.  Here, the Commission had made no finding regarding unusual circumstances.  With no finding before it, the court of appeal elected to assume unusual circumstances did exist, and then proceeded to the second half of the test:  whether there was a fair argument that the lease extension would cause significant environmental impacts.
Continue Reading Seven-Year Extension of Diablo Canyon Lease Held Exempt from CEQA