Lead agencies reviewing development project proposals under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) continue to struggle to reconcile the implications regarding the project’s impact on climate change with Assembly Bill 32’  mandate to reduce California’s greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The absence of formal guidance has left lead agencies and project proponents facing significant risk and uncertainty, as they have attempted to analyze hard-to-quantify impacts, link the project causally to the global problem of climate change, and adopt defensible mitigation. This state of uncertainty recently moved a grade closer to regulatory clarity as the Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) released a new version of proposed amendments to the CEQA Guidelines that is aimed at providing guidance on addressing climate change impacts (“Draft GHG Guidelines”). While the draft amendments to the Guidelines must still undergo a formal rulemaking procedure with the Resources Agency, the release of the Draft GHG Guidelines by OPR marks a significant advance.
Although an improvement on the prior draft released by OPR, the Draft GHG Guidelines still do not provide clarity, as the language is often vague and fails to address some of the most vexing issues. Lead agencies and project proponents need to be aware of these important developments and should consider taking part in the public comment opportunities during 2009.
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