OPR Seeks Input on CEQA Guidelines Update

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) is seeking input on proposed topics and changes for its 2014 CEQA Guidelines update. OPR asks whether the topics are appropriate for the update, whether there are any important topics that were not addressed and should be included, and whether there is any specific language appropriate for such suggestions.

The Guidelines govern the implementation of CEQA. According to OPR, the purpose of the Guidelines is to “explain how to determine whether an activity is subject to environmental review, what steps are involved in the environmental review process, and the required content of environmental documents.” OPR is required to update the Guidelines periodically. In recent years, updates have responded to specific bills, such as the SB 97 directive to address greenhouse gases. This year’s update is anticipated to be more comprehensive.

OPR solicited input from stakeholders and the public during the summer of 2013, asking what changes should be made to the Guidelines. This input helped OPR draft amendments to the Guidelines. During the summer, OPR and the Natural Resources Agency also conducted a public workshop.

Topics the 2014 update will address include: expressly allowing a lead agency to discuss project benefits in the project description; providing guidance on appropriate use of alternative baselines and alternative ways of measuring a project’s traffic impacts (aside from Level of Service designations); clarifying requirements regarding findings on project alternatives and feasibility; and providing guidance for determining whether a project is within the scope of a program EIR.

OPR will not provide further clarification of CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.2, which requires analysis of a project’s relationship with its environment, until the California Supreme Court resolves the issue in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which we previously wrote about here.

Comments are due by 5:00 p.m. on February 14, 2014 to CEQA.Guidelines@ceres.ca.gov or to Christopher Calfee, Senior Counsel, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, 1400 Tenth Street, Sacramento, CA 95818