Today, in an opinion authored by Justice Liu, the California Supreme Court ruled that the greenhouse gas analysis in an environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared for the San Diego Association of Government’s (“SANDAG”) regional transportation plan (“RTP”) did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), but did little to resolve uncertainties in addressing climate change issues under CEQA. As we previewed in our May discussion of the oral argument in this case, Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments, the majority of the Court found that SANDAG’s discussion of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions was adequate given the state of science and guidance, at least at the time of the issuance of the RTP in 2011. The Supreme Court cautioned, however, that this EIR should not be considered a template for future projects as developing science and regulations will likely provide further guidance on this issue.
Guest author Darrin Gambelin, a Downey Brand associate, contributes today’s post.
On August 1, The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued its Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews (Guidance), which provides federal agencies with a framework for analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in connection with environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This is a significant step in the developing law of climate impact analysis, as state and federal agencies alike continue to struggle to measure, analyze, and mitigate for localized, incremental contributions to this global problem.
The Guidance advises federal agencies to examine both the effects of the proposed project on climate change and the effects of climate change on the project. The guidance does not apply retroactively to projects with a completed NEPA review, but CEQ encourages agencies to adopt these procedures for projects currently under review. As guidance, the policies within are not binding, but in practice agencies generally defer to CEQ; so, applicants can expect federal agencies to apply the new policies to projects moving forward.