Kathryn L. Oehlschlager

Kathryn L. Oehlschlager

With more than a decade of experience in environmental law, Kathryn Oehlschlager has built a robust practice spanning environmental and land use compliance counselling, state and federal enforcement defense, and major litigation.

Public and private clients turn to Kathryn for advice on compliance with all facets of environmental and land use law, including CEQA, NEPA, federal and state endangered species laws, contaminated site remediation, water quality and supply issues, and laws regulating solid and hazardous waste.  She routinely represents clients in all aspects of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) project review process, including preparation, review, and analysis of negative declarations, draft environmental impact reports, and final environmental impact reports. (Read more…)

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Trump Signs Executive Order Allowing Agencies to Bypass NEPA, ESA, and CWA Requirements

On June 4, 2020 President Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities,” allowing—and, in fact, directing—federal agencies to circumvent environmental permitting requirements in order to expedite infrastructure projects. The Order is based on the President’s March 13, 2020 declaration of … Continue Reading

Second Appellate District Expands Baseline Analysis in Upholding Environmental Impact Report for Refinery Project Intended to Help Reduce Air Pollutants

Last month, the Second Appellate District upheld the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (“Air District”) Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”), which the Air District prepared to analyze the environmental impacts of a refinery project that was intended to increase compliance and help reduce air pollution.  Communities for a Better Environment v. So. Coast Air Quality … Continue Reading

To VMT or not to VMT? Third District Says Level of Service No Longer Valid to Measure Traffic Impacts, But Use of Vehicle Miles Traveled is Not Yet Required

The Third District Court of Appeals recently weighed in on the interpretation of Public Resources Code section 21099(b)(2) (“Section 21099(b)(2)”) and newly enacted CEQA Guidelines section 15064.3, which govern the consideration of traffic impacts under CEQA. In Citizens for Positive Growth & Preservation v. City of Sacramento (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 609 (“Citizens”), the Court determined … Continue Reading

Two CEQA Statute of Limitations Cases, Two Different Results

California Courts of Appeal recently issued two cases addressing the strict statute of limitations applicable to agency action under CEQA. Citizens for a Responsible Caltrans Decision v. Department of Transportation –  (March 24, 2020, D074374) __ Cal.5th__ The Fourth District in Citizens for a Responsible Caltrans Decision v. Department of Transportation overturned a lower court’s … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Alert: Judicial Council Issues Sweeping Emergency Rules; Local Agencies Issue Regional Changes

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state and several local jurisdictions have issued orders/rules in the last few weeks that affect not only the timing of processing land use and planning entitlements, but also the filing of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other claims challenging land use projects and approvals in California courts. … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Holds Medical Marijuana Zoning Ordinance is a Project Subject to CEQA

Every CEQA analysis begins with the threshold question of whether the activity is a “project” as defined by Public Resources Code section 21065 and 21080. In Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, the California Supreme Court held that regardless of the nature of a project, CEQA applies if it “may … Continue Reading

Court of Appeal Finds No Discretionary Action in St. Helena Multi-family Dwelling Development

On December 18, 2018, the First Appellate District, in McCorkle v. St. Helena (A153238), affirmed the trial court’s denial of a Petition for Writ of Mandate challenging the City of St. Helena’s approval of a multi-dwelling residential development.  First, consistent with Public Resources Code section 21151 and interpreting case law, the court held that the … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Requires De Novo Review for EIR Adequacy Challenges and Imposes Heightened EIR Requirements Connecting Environmental Impacts with Specific Health Consequences

In a long-awaited decision, on December 24, 2018 the California Supreme Court in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (S219783) affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part, the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s decision concerning a challenge to the adequacy of an EIR prepared for the Friant Ranch retirement community (“Project”).  Employing a de novo … Continue Reading

Fourth District Upholds San Diego’s Addendum for Balboa Park Revitalization Project, Validates the CEQA Addendum Process

On October 24, 2018, the Fourth Appellate District upheld the trial court’s decision in Save Our Heritage Organization v. City of San Diego (D073064), finding that the use of an addendum as outlined in section 15164 of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Guideline for approval of project modifications is valid under CEQA and does … Continue Reading

Clean Sweep for City of San Diego in Challenge to Approval of Private School

On December 20, 2017, the Fourth District Court of Appeal delivered a solid win for the City of San Diego in a multi-faceted challenge to its approval of a private school pursuant to a Mitigated Negative Declaration (“MND”).  In Clews Land and Livestock LLC et al. v. City of San Diego, Petitioners Clews Land and … Continue Reading

DWR Certifies EIR for WaterFix, Triggering 30-Day Deadline for Opponents to File Suit

On July 21, 2017, the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) certified the final environmental document and issued its Notice of Determination for the California WaterFix, a significant new water infrastructure component proposed by DWR and United States Bureau of Reclamation. DWR’s action triggered a 30-day statute of limitations to raise CEQA challenges to the … Continue Reading

Up One Day, Down the Next—California Air Resources Board Receives Mixed Reviews in its Implementation of its Cap-and-Trade Program and Low Carbon Fuel Standard

In recent weeks, California appellate courts issued two decisions regarding California Air Resources Board (CARB) programs implemented under AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, with mixed results.  The first decision upheld the legality of a key element of CARB’s cap-and-trade program, the auction of emission credits.  In that case, the Third Appellate District rejected an … Continue Reading

Fourth District Leaves Door Open for Attorney-Fee Award to Real Party in Interest

The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently issued its opinion in Save Our Heritage Organisation v. City of San Diego (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 154, the latest round of litigation over the site development plan for a revitalization project in San Diego’s Balboa Park, finding that, under some circumstances, a project proponent may recover attorneys’ fees … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Upholds Final EIS for Tahoe Area Regional Plan Update

In Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (“TRPA”), finding that the TRPA’s final Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the agency’s Regional Plan Update (“RPU”) sufficiently addressed localized impacts on soil erosion and water quality. The 2012 RPU, … Continue Reading

Fifth District Allows Real Party to Recover Costs of Record Preparation

On, September 12, 2015, the Fifth District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Citizens for Ceres v. City of Ceres (2016) _Cal.App.5th_.  The opinion authorized real-parties-in-interest to recover costs of record preparation, as long as the record was prepared in a manner prescribed by Public Resources Code section 21167.6. The petitioners in this action … Continue Reading

Court of Appeal Rejects Use of Categorical Exemption, Muddies the Waters on Standard of Review for Exceptions

The Fourth District has waded into the world of CEQA exemptions, holding that the City of Palm Springs improperly relied upon the Class 5 categorical exemption for “minor alterations in land use limitations.” However, in a confusing discussion of whether an exception to that exemption might apply, the Court seemed to ignore the Supreme Court’s … Continue Reading

The End (of LOS) is Nigh: OPR’s Revised Proposal on Analysis of Transportation Impacts

In late January, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released its revised proposal to update the CEQA Guidelines with respect to the analysis of transportation impacts. OPR has not backed off from the main thrust of its original proposal: abandonment of “level of service” (LOS) in favor of “vehicle miles travelled” (VMT) as … Continue Reading
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