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January 21, 2014  |  Written by Brittany Lewis-Roberts

Agencies Seek Input on Preliminary Topics for 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update

On December 30, 2013, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the Natural Resources Agency (collectively “Agencies”) released the document “Possible Topics to be addressed in the 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update.”  The document summarizes the suggestions submitted by stakeholders in response to the Agencies’ solicitation for input on possible changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines.  The Agencies are now seeking input on the preliminary list of topics.

Pursuant to California Public Resources Code section 21083, OPR must prepare guidelines for the implementation of CEQA by public agencies and transmit the proposed guidelines to the Secretary of the Resources Agency.  In turn, the Secretary of the Resources Agency must certify and adopt the guidelines in accordance with certain provisions of the California Government Code.  At least once every two years, OPR must recommend changes or amendments to the guidelines, and similarly, the Secretary must certify and adopt the recommended changes.  The Agencies are currently engaged in this process of updating the CEQA Guidelines.

In past years, the Agencies used their periodic review of the CEQA Guidelines to implement specific statutory directives, such as addressing greenhouse gas emissions.  For 2014, the Agencies will undertake a comprehensive review.  The Agencies have identified a number of topics and suggested changes already, including clarifying the criteria for identifying a lead agency, adding an explanation of “baseline” and providing guidance on the use of alternative baselines, clarifying the requirements for a greenhouse gas emissions analysis, and explaining the requirements for responses to comments.  OPR also stated that it will not be suggesting changes or providing clarification to California Public Resources Code section 15126.2, which is the subject of a case pending before the California Supreme Court.

For the preliminary topics, the Agencies are seeking input on whether the topics are appropriate for the 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update and whether there are important topics that were missed and need to be addressed.  The Agencies have also requested specific suggested language that they should consider (if the language has not already been provided to the Agencies).  Suggestions and input are due February 14, 2014, by 5:00 p.m.

A full list of preliminary topics is available here: http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/PossibleTopics2014CEQAGuidelinesUpdate.pdf).

For more information on the 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update, and how you can get involved, please contact Brittany Lewis-Roberts at blewis-roberts@somachlaw.com.

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