In a highly anticipated decision published today, the California Supreme Court affirmed that the use of a future baseline for analyzing certain environmental impacts is appropriate when supported by substantial evidence. The decision, Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Case No. S202828, August 5, 2013) (Neighbors), confirms that, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a public agency may choose, in some circumstances, to evaluate the impacts of a potential project against a baseline consisting solely of projected future conditions. However, the agency’s choice must be justified by substantial evidence that an analysis based on existing conditions would be misleading or without value to EIR users. This CEQA baseline approach contrasts with the conventional baseline analysis that assumes the existing physical conditions in the affected area during the period of environmental review.
The decision confirms that while the use of existing conditions is the “normal baseline” under CEQA, in limited circumstances (particularly for large-scale, long-term development projects), factual circumstances may justify an agency relying on future conditions in order to “prevent misinforming or misleading the public and decision makers.” What is crucial is to make sure the administrative record supports the decision to adopt a different baseline approach.
Please see full alert below for more information.
Firefox recommends the PDF Plugin for Mac OS X for viewing PDF documents in your browser.
We can also show you Legal Updates using the Google Viewer; however, you will need to be logged into Google Docs to view them.
Please choose one of the above to proceed!
LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.