Air Quality District’s CEQA Thresholds Invalidated

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On March 5, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to set aside, depublish and stop the circulation of its controversial thresholds of significance for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and certain toxic air contaminants (“Thresholds”). The CEQA Thresholds were intended to be used by BAAQMD and other local agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area to determine whether a local land use project would have significant air quality impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Court invalidated the Thresholds because BAAQMD failed to perform a CEQA analysis of the impacts of the Thresholds on the physical environment prior to their adoption.

Background

In June 2010, BAAQMD adopted Resolution No. 2010-06 including numeric air quality thresholds for analyses by lead agencies under CEQA. While the BAAQMD Thresholds are not binding on other Bay Area agencies, they are widely used by cities and counties in evaluating projects for CEQA purposes, and BAAQMD’s stated policy is that lead agencies should apply the Thresholds when conducting CEQA review. The Thresholds were part of a larger document entitled “BAAQMD CEQA Air Quality Guidelines,” which had not been updated in nearly a decade.

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