CEQA Reform Is On The Table

Aviation Alert (February 2013)

The following excerpts from the bill highlight some of the key subjects of CEQA reform that may be of interest to airports:
1.      Renewable Energy Projects: "It is the intent of the Legislature to explore amendments to [CEQA] to further streamline the law for renewable energy projects …"
2.     Significance Thresholds: "It is the intent of the Legislature to update CEQA to establish a threshold of significance for noise, aesthetics, parking, and traffic levels of service, and thresholds relating to these land use impacts, so that projects meeting those thresholds are not subject to further environmental review for those environmental impacts.  It is further the intent of the Legislature to review other similar land-use-related impacts to determine if other thresholds of significance can be set."
3.     Streamlining Master Planning:  "It is the intent of the Legislature to amend Section 65456, which exempts from CEQA projects undertaken pursuant to a specific plan for which an EIR has been prepared, unless conditions specified in Section 21166 of the Public Resources Code have occurred, to define with greater specificity what 'new information' means, and to avoid duplicative CEQA review for projects and activities that comply with that plan.  It is further the intent of the Legislature to review the possibility of defining other types of plans to determine if similar treatment could be applied to those plans or portions of those plans that are consistent with sustainable communities strategies adopted pursuant to Section 65080 of the Government Code or that have had a certified EIR within the past five years."
4.     Judicial Remedies: "It is the intent of the Legislature to enact amendments to Section 21168.9 to establish clearer procedures for a trial court to remand to a lead agency for remedying only those portions of an EIR, negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration found to be in violation of CEQA, while retaining those portions that are not in violation so that the violations can be corrected, recirculated for public comment, and completed more efficiently and expeditiously.  It is further the intent of the Legislature to explore options under which a court could allow project approvals to remain in place, and for projects to proceed."
5.     Late Hits and Data Dumps: "It is the intent of the Legislature to amend Section 21091 of the Public Resources Code and related provisions of law to establish clear statutory rules under which 'late hits' and 'document dumps' are prohibited or restricted prior to certification of an EIR, if a project proponent or lead agency has not substantively changed the draft EIR or substantively modified the project."
We will be monitoring legislative action on SB 731 and will provide further updates, as appropriate. By Lori D. Ballance and Danielle K. Morone for Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP