Monday, December 01, 2008

Greenhouse Gases and CEQA

There's a swirling chatter all over the web and in the newsletters of land use law offices. Since 2006, with the passage of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the effect of this landmark legislation on our State's environmental laws, particularly CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) has been the subject of much speculation and, often, frustration.

AB 32 requires the California Air Resources Board to:

· Establish a statewide Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions by January 1, 2008.
· Adopt mandatory reporting rules for significant sources of greenhouse gases by
January 1, 2008.
· Adopt a plan by January 1, 2009 indicating how emission reductions will be achieved from
significant GHG sources using regulations, market mechanisms and other actions.
· Adopt regulations by January 1, 2011 to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and
cost-effective reductions in GHGs, including provisions for using both market mechanisms
and alternative compliance mechanisms.
· Convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and an Economic and Technology
Advancement Advisory Committee to advise ARB.
· Ensure public notice and opportunity for comment for all ARB actions.
· Prior to imposing any mandates or authorizing market mechanisms, requires ARB to
evaluate several factors, including but not limited to: impacts on California’s economy, the
environment, and public health; equity between regulated entities; electricity reliability,
conformance with other environmental laws, and to ensure that the rules do not
disproportionately impact low-income communities.
· Adopt a list of discrete, early action measures by July 1, 2007 that can be implemented
before January 1, 2010

Since many of these dates have passed, let's see how much has actually been accomplished.

One of the first things was the passsage of yet more legislation SB 97, which requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to create CEQA guidelines to mitigate GHG emissions, including, but not limited to, effects associated with transportation or energy consumption. OPR must prepare these guidelines and transmit them to the Resources Agency by July 1, 2009.

This was supposed to help the confusion over AB 32 and implement some of its requirements. Many towns and Cities and Counties have been scrambling to met the deadlines, and to interpret what that means in terms of CEQA analysis for various projects, including housing, commercial development and transportation projects.

Now we have SB 375 which streamlines CEQA analyses for certain projects like transit oriented development to discourage sprawl and hence global warming impacts. It imposes a regional approach on planning which many enviros have wanted for a long time.

I agree, it's overdue. My questions have to do with issues facing small towns, when large projects are proposed, in fact pushed by the powers that be, read ABAG housing requirements, that threaten the character of he town, and maybe even will have an opposite effect of that desired: to provide more affordable housing in town centers, near transit.

The problem is developers want and demand more housing and the bonuses that go with it, in order to provide the necessary affordable housing. (What a crazy concept; shouldn't ALL housing be affordable?). To me, this is the crux of what's wrong with the way we use land in this country; it sells to the highest bidder (and how well is that working for those of you who spent too much on your own homes?) instead of apportioning the land as needed to serve the community.

The "highest and best" use of land means getting the most $$ out of it, not the most efficient use of resources, not the best way to serve those in need of quality, inexpensive housing.

But I digress with opinion, not information. To read more about these bills and more, go to:

and you will see that the professionals are scratching their heads, just like me.