The California Supreme Court has recently taken action in several cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). This Legal Alert will provide an update on the action taken by the Court in reference to several cases that have been the subject of past Legal Alerts.
Sunset Skyranch Pilots Association v. County of Sacramento
The Supreme Court recently granted review in the case of Sunset Skyranch Pilots Association v. County of Sacramento. In this case, a California Court of Appeal held that a county’s decision to deny renewal of a conditional use permit (“CUP”) for an airport required an initial study under CEQA. The court reasoned that the County’s decision to deny the request for CUP renewal had the practical effect of closing the airport. The county appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision and six California Supreme Court justices voted to accept the case for review.
For more information on the Court of Appeal’s decision, see our previous Legal Alert entitled, “County’s Decision To Deny Renewal of Conditional Use Permit For Airport Is Not Preempted By State Aeronautics Act, But That Decision Does Require An Initial Study Under the California Environmental Quality Act,” August 11, 2008.
Communities For A Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality Management District
Another CEQA case currently pending before the California Supreme Court is Communities For A Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality Management District, which considers CEQA baselines. The Court of Appeal concluded that an air quality management district abused its discretion when it issued a negative declaration for a diesel fuel manufacturing project because there was substantial evidence offered that the project’s nitrogen dioxide emissions may have a significant effect on the environment. When the district found no significant effect, it “improperly relied on a baseline level of permitted emissions which did not reflect existing physical conditions.” The California Supreme Court decided to review the Court of Appeal’s decision in this case.
Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning v. City of Stockton
In Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning v. City of Stockton, a California Court of Appeal held that the 35 day statute of limitations found at Public Resources Code § 21167(d) requires a valid project approval before it is triggered. In the Stockton case, the attempted project approval was not valid and the 35 day limitations period was never triggered. The Court of Appeal found that the statute of limitations was 180 days from the commencement of the project. The California Supreme Court recently granted review of the decision in the Stockton case.
Committee for Green Foothills v. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
In Committee for Green Foothills v. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, a California Court of Appeal held that, although a state environmental group’s petition was filed too late to meet the 30-day limitations period that is applicable to some CEQA violations, there was a reasonable likelihood that the group would amend its petition to allege facts that would bring its claim within a provision of CEQA that contains a 180-day limitations period. The 180-day limitations period applies to claims that a public agency has approved or started a project that has a significant effect on the environment without any attempt to comply with CEQA. The California Supreme Court has also decided to review the decision in this case.
For more information on the Court of Appeal’s decision, please see our Legal Alert, “State Court Of Appeal Allows Environmental Group Another Opportunity To Amend Claim Against County For Failure To Perform Environmental Review,” May 15, 2008.
We will continue to monitor these cases and inform you of their outcome. In the meantime, if you have any questions concerning the content of this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.