A Brief Overview Of The Recent Amendments To CEQA GUIDELINES

On December 29, 2009, the California Natural Resources Agency ("Resources Agency") adopted amendments to the guidelines implementing the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). The amendments were filed with the Secretary of State on February 16, 2010. The amendments assist lead agencies in complying with CEQA's existing requirements when analyzing and mitigating the impacts of greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions[1] associated with a proposed project.

The amendments implement Senate Bill 97 which required the Resources Agency to clarify how GHG emissions should be analyzed and mitigated during the CEQA process. Recent legislation and issuance of the California Air Resource Board's ("CARB's") Scoping Plan pursuant to Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Bill, created uncertainty regarding CEQA compliance. CARB approved the Scoping Plan a year ago. It presents strategies for achieving the statewide goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The Legislature passed SB 97 to give greater certainty to CEQA lead agencies as to whether CEQA requirements have been met. According to the Resource Agency's Final Statement of Reasons for Regulatory Action (dated Dec. 2009), they do not add substantive requirements.

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