Legal Alerts Dec 01, 2017

Proposed “Comprehensive Update” to the State CEQA Guidelines Released

California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research Proposal Also Addresses SB 743

Proposed “Comprehensive Update” to the State CEQA Guidelines Released

Following several years of public involvement, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has just issued comprehensive Proposed Updates to the CEQA Guidelines. In addition to proposing changes or additions to nearly 30 different sections of the Guidelines, the proposed package includes updates related to analyzing transportation impacts under Senate Bill 743.
In its 150-plus page update package, OPR recommends numerous revisions to the Guidelines. Among others, the proposed updates would:

  • Clarify existing CEQA exemptions, including the use of the existing facilities categorical exemption and the emergency statutory exemption,
  • Elaborate on the elimination of redundancy in environmental review through the use of “tiering,”
  • Clarify the difference between “tiering,” and CEQA’s more specific “streamlining” provisions,
  • Clarify baseline requirements and the limitations on the ability to use historic conditions where environmental conditions fluctuate,
  • Provide guidance on “pre-commitment” issues and the types of activities that an agency may (or may not) engage in prior to the completion of CEQA review, and
  • Add new “Energy” and “Wildfire” resource categories to the Initial Study/Appendix G checklist. 

Additionally, the update package includes long-anticipated revisions under SB 743, which will require that lead agencies evaluate traffic impacts based on a vehicle-miles-traveled, or VMT, metric, instead of a more traditional level-of-service basis. While OPR released several iterations of the proposed updates over the last three years, the proposed new section 15064.3 would phase in the use of VMT on a state-wide basis no later than 2020. OPR has likewise released an updated technical advisory, which includes guidance on how to assess VMT, develop thresholds of significance, analyze safety issues, and develop mitigation measures.
OPR submitted the proposed updates to the Natural Resources Agency for review and potential adoption. Over the coming months, the Natural Resources Agency will conduct a formal administrative rulemaking process, which will include the opportunity for public review and comment.
For more information regarding the proposed CEQA Guidelines, or if you would like assistance in preparing and submitting comments on the proposal to the Natural Resources Agency, please contact one of the attorney authors of this Legal Alert listed at right in the Environmental Law & Natural Resources practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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