2009 Fourth Quarter CEQA Case Law Update

Author(s): Scott B. Birkey, Andrew K. Fogg, Lisa M. Patricio, Andrew B. Sabey

Source: CCN Quarterly CEQA Case Law Update

December 2009

With nine new CEQA cases, including a ruling from the California Supreme Court, the final quarter of 2009 was a busy one in the world of CEQA. In addition to these new decision, there were a number of other important developments in CEQA practice, which are briefly summarized below.

  • New court rules went into effect on January 1, 2010 specifying the format and content of the administrative record that is prepared in CEQA litigation, including rules for both electronic and paper format records. Notably, if an electronic record is prepared, it must be prepared in a full text searchable format. California Rules of Court 3.1365-3.1368.
  • On December 31, the Natural Resources Agency formally adopted the proposed new CEQA Guidelines concerning the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions. These new CEQA Guidelines do not become legally effective until the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) approves the Guidelines and transmits them to the Secretary of State for inclusion in the California Code of Regulations. OAL has thirty (30) days to review the Guidelines, and they become legally effective thirty (30) days after OAL submits them to the Secretary of State.
  • The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District adopted recommended thresholds for determining the significance of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project. These recommended thresholds can be viewed on the District’s website at www.valleyair.org. Also, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District deferred until April a decision on its proposed CEQA thresholds.
  • There are three CEQA cases pending before the California Supreme Court, and the Court has heard or will hear oral argument in all three cases in December and January. So there will be three new Supreme Court decision in the first quarter of 2010, one dealing with the determination of the baseline for determining impacts, and two dealing with the statute of limitations for bringing a CEQA lawsuit.


  • Sunset SkyRanch Pilots Ass'n v. County of Sacramento
  • Lake Almanor Associates LP v Huffman – Broadway Group, Inc.
  • Inyo Citizens for Better Planning v. Inyo County Board of Supervisors
  • Schellinger Brothers v. City of Sebastopol
  • California Unions for Reliable Energy v Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District
  • Sustainable Transportation Advocates of Santa Barbara v Santa Barbara County Association of Governments
  • County of Sacramento v. Superior Court
  • Planning and Conservation League v. Castaic Lake Water Agency
  • Bus Riders Union v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transp. Agency

Download Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP's 2009 Fourth Quarter CEQA Case Update Newsletter.