Climate Change & Renewable Energy

Climate change has become one of the most difficult global challenges of our times. The consensus that human activities have and are having a dramatic effect on the composition of the earth’s atmosphere through the emission of greenhouse gases has resulted in considerable recent legislation and regulation seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This emerging area of law is driving the public and private sector to seek clean energy and technology solutions and is now a top priority for governmental and private sector participants. Our attorneys have participated actively in proceedings relating to the development by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research of draft revisions to the CEQA Guidelines to address climate change issues, as mandated by Senate Bill 97 from the 2007 legislative session. Our attorneys have also given speeches at conferences and elsewhere regarding how best to address climate change issues in CEQA documents.

Senate Bill 375, authored by Senator pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and recently adopted into law, builds upon the principles set forth in AB 32 and provides a means for addressing climate change in CEQA documents. SB 375 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by discouraging urban sprawl and reducing vehicle miles traveled. Among other things, SB 375 will require regional transportation plans to include a “sustainable community strategy” (SCS) to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the California Air Resources Board. To encourage smart growth development, SB 375 provides streamlined review under CEQA for certain projects consistent with the SCS: Transit Priority Projects (projects comprising at least 50% residential use, a residential density of at least 20 units per net acre and located within one half mile of a regional transit corridor) and residential or mixed use projects with a residential component requiring at least 75 percent of the total square footage. Our attorneys are well versed in the nuances of SB 375 and are poised to assist agencies and developers capitalize on the exciting opportunities afforded by this streamlined CEQA review.

Many new energy development companies are somewhat shocked to learn how confusing and difficult the development process can be in California. Our 25 years of experience in assisting development projects all over the State obtain the necessary environmental review and land use permits can be extremely valuable in navigating the obstacle course of CEQA and local land use regulations.

Our attorneys have represented a number of applicants in the renewable energy field, including wind power developers and ethanol producers. For example, we recently assisted a major wind company in navigating the CEQA process to obtain a conditional use permit for a new 102 MW wind power project in Shasta County. Despite vocal opposition, the project was approved and no litigation was filed. We also recently represented an ethanol producer in completing the CEQA and land use entitlement processes for a new ethanol production facility in Hanford, including settlement with the Attorney General and project opponents.

We welcome the opportunity to put our experience to additional work in the green energy field.