The Attorney General’s Office employs the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and related laws to ensure that local governments take seriously their obligation to consider potential environmental impacts, especially those that may affect the public health and welfare. The Attorney General enforces CEQA by submitting comments letters to lead agencies that are undertaking CEQA review and, where necessary, through litigation and settlement.
Some recent examples follow:
- In 2007, after sending a comment letter, the Attorney General sued San Bernardino County based on its failure to analyze increased greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the County’s proposed general plan amendment. Read the complaint, pdf. The Attorney General's Office and the County quickly settled the case, with the County agreeing to adopt a County-wide Greenhouse Gas Plan, which is available at their Greenhouse Gas Plan page. The County also launched Green County San Bernardino to spur the use of green technologies and building practices among residents, business owners and developers.
- In September, 2011, the Attorney General intervened in a CEQA lawsuit challenging Riverside County's approval of an industrial project next to Mira Loma Village, a primarily Hispanic community already affected by exhaust and noise pollution. The proposed project consists of a million square feet of warehouses and industrial buildings that would cause additional truck traffic and harmful diesel particulate emissions. The suit alleged that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) failed to adequately analyze and mitigate the project's impacts on Mira Loma Village in light of the already serious health and environmental risks suffered by the community. Read the complaint, pdf. The City of Jurupa Valley now has jurisdiction over the project site. In a settlement entered by the Court on February 14, 2013, the City and the project developers agreed to a variety of mitigating actions, including: instituting proceedings for preparation of an Environmental Justice Element to be added to the City's General Plan; installing air filtration systems in the homes nearby residents; instituting an air quality monitoring program; instituting proceedings to adopt an ordinance to prohibit heavy trucks on the road adjacent to Mira Loma Village; and implementing an anti-idling enforcement program. Read the settlement, pdf.
- In January 2012, the Attorney General intervened in a CEQA case challenging the legal adequacy of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) certified by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) for its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy. The Attorney General alleged that the FEIR for the long-range transportation plan does not adequately disclose and mitigate the adverse impacts of the plan, which provides for extensive highway construction, does not reduce overall driving, and causes increases in particulate pollution that exacerbates asthma and can cause cancer. The plan also fails to achieve sustainable decreases in greenhouse gas emissions. Read the petition, pdf. On December 3, 2012, the superior court ruled that the FEIR’s discussion and analysis of greenhouse gas emissions is inadequate. Read the ruling, pdf. SANDAG has appealed.
In addition, the Attorney General’s Office monitors developments in the CEQA case law and submits amicus briefs in select cases of statewide importance. On January 16, 2013, the Attorney General submitted an amicus brief in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley, a CEQA case now pending in the California Supreme Court. The case will decide the steps and standards that apply to “categorical exemptions” from CEQA’s requirements. In the brief, the Attorney General argues for an approach that will encourage the use of categorical exemptions while, at the same time, protect the environment and public health. Read the amicus brief, pdf.