Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Bay area air district significance thresholds reinstated

By Norman F Carlin and Alina J Fortson

A new appellate decision reinstates the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s controversial ‘significance thresholds’ for evaluating air quality impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act. Reversing the trial court, the court of appeal found that adoption of thresholds for CEQA review was not a ‘project’ itself subject to CEQA review, and rejected claims that the thresholds were unsupported and would have adverse environmental side-effects by discouraging high-density development and promoting suburban sprawl.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that agencies analyse the potentially significant environmental impacts of proposed projects prior to approval, and that they identify and implement feasible mitigation measures or alternatives to avoid or reduce such impacts.

A ‘significance threshold’ is the level at which an impact is determined to be significant, triggering mitigation, and also determines the level at which mitigation is effective in reducing the impact beneath the threshold…

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