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Global Warming Having Significant Impact On CEQA

Jul 2, 2007
In only a year's time, global warming's context within CEQA has gone from the dullest blip on the radar screen to the hottest CEQA issue. Don't expect it to go away soon.

Shortly after delivering our July edition to the printer, I received a copy of a letter that business and development organizations sent to the governor and legislative leaders requesting "urgent legislative action" to prevent global warming from becoming a CEQA issue.

The top story in our July edition is about environmental groups and Attorney General Jerry Brown insisting that environmental reviews address a project or plan's contribution to global warming, or, in some instances, global warming's potential impact on a project or plan. Increasingly, it appears, land use attorneys are advising their clients to include at least a discussion of global warming in California Environmental Quality Act documents.

But the California business and development groups — which include the Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers & Technology Association, the Building Industry Association, the Business Properties Association, the Forestry Association and the Western States Petroleum Association — insist that global warming is not a matter for environmental impact reports. In the June 21 letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, the groups argue that until rules for enacting AB 32 (the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) are adopted, "it is pure speculation how companies, developers and consumers should be treated."

"There is no provision in AB 32, nor any other statute, regulation, guideline or case law, that says CEQA is the appropriate vehicle for addressing climate change concerns," the letter states. "In fact, AB 32 explicitly gave authority to the Air Resources Board and other specific agencies to create a sound program to reduce emissions and protect the economy."

"The potential harm if these challenges are allowed to continue is staggering," the letter urges, citing potential delays to new housing, commercial development and infrastructure projects.

The Planning and Conservation League followed up with a June 26 letter of its own to Schwarzenegger, Nuñez and Perata, calling the business and development group's request "ill-advised and selfish."

"CEQA's purpose and the goals of AB 32 are in complete harmony," wrote PCL Executive Director Gary Patton.

Currently, there is no bill in the Legislature that addresses this controversy.

- Paul Shigley