The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear its first California Environmental Quality Act case in three years. The state's high court also agreed to review a significant brownfields case, and to let stand a controversial CEQA ruling involving water and local general plans. The court accepted for review Friends of Sierra Madre v. City of Sierra Madre, No. S085088, in which the Second District Court of Appeal invalidated an election because the city violated CEQA. (See CP&DR Legal Digest, January 2000.) The court said the city's act of placing on the local ballot a measure to remove 29 properties from the city's Register of Historic Landmarks was a "project" under CEQA. Unlike a citizen's initiative, the council's discretionary action to place the city-sponsored measure on the ballot is subject to CEQA, the court ruled. The city put the measure on the ballot specifically to avoid CEQA review, and argued in court that CEQA did not apply. The city also argued that CEQA did not authorize the court to throw out election results. Four of seven state Supreme Court justices — Chief Justice Ronald George and Associate Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin and Janice Brown — voted to hear the case. It will be the court's first CEQA case since it decided in August 1997 that de-listing a species under the California Endangered Species Act is not exempt from CEQA, but that CESA procedures provide a functional equivalent to CEQA. (See CP&DR Legal Digest, August 1997.) The court decided not to hear a more far-reaching CEQA case, League to Save Sierra Lakes v. El Dorado County Water Agency, No. C027948 (see CP&DR Legal Digest, January 2000). In that case, the Third District Court of Appeal threw out an environmental impact report for a water project because the EIR was predicated on El Dorado County's draft, unadopted general plan. The court also ruled the proposed purchase of three reservoirs by an irrigation district was subject to CEQA review, the Federal Powers Act does not preempt CEQA, and the EIR inadequately described baseline conditions. Only Justice Baxter wanted to hear the case, which has drawn interest of CEQA practitioners and observers. The brownfields case the court unanimously decided to accept is Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London v. Los Angeles County Superior Court, No. S084057, (see CP&DR Legal Digest, December 1999). In that case, a divided three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal said an oil company's insurer had no responsibility to pay for state-mandated remediation of polluted industrial sites or pay administrative fines. The court said insurance companies had a responsibility in regards only to lawsuits in the most technical sense. In a dissent, Appellate Justice Richard Aldrich said the ruling would slow clean up of the environment.