Cal Attorney General Comments on why climate impacts must be addressed under CEQA

I thought I’d reference a letter that the California Department of Justice wrote to the City of San Jose two years ago, explaining that the City couldn’t duck its responsibility under the California Environmental Quality Act to determine whether climate change impacts were significant. The letter remains a useful tool so I wanted to make it more widely available.

An excerpt:

While the City is correct that there are currently no regulatory thresholds for significance relating to global warming impacts, this does not relieve a lead agency of its statutory obligation under CEQA to determine whether or not a project’s impacts are significant. As the CEQA Guidelines note, “[a]n ironclad definition of significant effect is not always possible ….” In the future, there may well be “an approved plan or mitigation program which provides specific requirements that will avoid or substantially lessen the cumulative problem” of GHG emissions and global warming impacts, but until that time, lead agencies must rely only on their own “careful judgment … based to the extent possible on scientific and factual data” in determining whether a project’s global warming-related impacts are significant.

(And note that pretty soon we should have well-established regulatory thresholds….)

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