Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bay Area Superior Court Deals Jolt to Air District's Standards of Significance for Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Super. Ct. Alameda Co.Mar. 5, 2012) No. RG10-548693, available at CourtWebsite

The Alameda County Superior Court recently ordered the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to set aside the standards it adopted in 2010 for determining the significance of air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, and ordered the district to take no further action to disseminate those standards before performing CEQA review related to issuing the standards. The standards have been relied upon by lead agencies since adoption, and other air districts and lead agencies around the state could be drawn into litigation regarding the necessity for conducting CEQA review prior to adopting similar thresholds.

The court found that the standards constituted a "project" under CEQA because there was a fair argument that they could cause a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment. BAAQMD argued that the thresholds were only a set of policies and not mandatory on other agencies. However, the court disagreed, finding that the thresholds were not flexible and the appropriateness of their application was not determined on a case-by-case basis. The court also found the thresholds were not exempt under CEQA's common sense exemption because no notice of exemption had been filed and such an exemption argument had not been raised before.