This post is Part Two of our blog series on the 2019 amendments to the CEQA Guidelines.  This post focuses on amendments in the areas of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, energy, and wildfire impacts, as well as a discussion of OPR’s draft CEQA and Climate Change Advisory.

GHG Impacts and Draft CEQA and Climate Change Advisory

The amendments to the CEQA Guidelines are designed to improve the analysis of impacts from GHG emissions in CEQA documents.  These amendments clarify the manner in which the significance of a project’s GHG emissions is determined, and give the lead agency discretion to select a model or methodology to estimate GHG emissions.  Several of these amendments were made to ensure consistency with recent appellate case law dealing with GHG emissions, cumulative impacts, and significance determinations, including Center for Biological Diversity v. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (2015) 62 Cal.4th 204 and Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Assn. of Governments (2017) 3 Cal.5th 497.

EnergyIn 2014, the appellate decision in California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland (“CCEC”) caught many lead agencies and CEQA consultants off-guard, by holding that the type of energy impacts analysis conducted in many EIRs actually fails to comply with CEQA. EIRs prepared post-CCEC have generally included a much more in-depth analysis of energy impacts, to ensure compliance with that decision. But what to do about EIRs certified prior to CCEC, where further approvals are necessary or the EIR is being challenged? A recent decision by the First District Court of Appeal, Ukiah Citizens for Safety First v. City of Ukiah (June 21, 2016) rejects the use of an addendum to address the issue.

In 2011, Costco applied for a use permit and site rezone to allow construction of a 148,000-square-foot retail facility – including a warehouse store, over 600 parking stalls, and a 16-pump gas station – in the City of Ukiah. In December 2013 and January 2014, the City adopted the necessary rezoning legislation, certified the EIR, and adopted a statement of overriding considerations. Ukiah Citizens for Safety First, a local citizens group, filed suit to challenge the EIR in the Mendocino County Superior Court. Shortly after the suit was filed, the Third Appellate District issued its opinion in CCEC (225 Cal.App.4th 173). The City concluded that the CCEC decision required “a more detailed discussion of energy use than was previously understood at the time the EIR was certified,” and thereafter prepared an addendum and lodged the addendum with the trial court, in an effort to satisfy the more exacting standard articulated in CCEC.