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Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20259
Nos. D063288, (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist., 11/24/2014)

A California appellate court held that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) failed to adequately consider greenhouse gas emissions impacts in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) during its preparation of its 2050 regional transportation plan. A lower court ruled that in certifying the environmental impact report (EIR) for the plan, SANDAG failed to analyze the inconsistency between the state's policy goals reflected in Executive Order S-3-05, which established greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for California, and the plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts after 2020. The appellate court agreed. SANDAG prejudicially abused its discretion by omitting from the EIR an analysis of the transportation plan's consistency with the state climate policy, reflected in the Executive Order, of continual greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The lower court also found the EIR failed to adequately address mitigation measures for the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. Again, the appellate court agreed. Missing from the EIR is what CEQA requires: a discussion of mitigation alternatives that could both substantially lessen the transportation plan's significant greenhouse gas emissions impacts and feasibly be implemented. But the appellate court modified the lower court's judgment, ruling that the EIR further violated CEQA by failing to analyze a reasonable range of project alternatives, failing to adequately analyze and mitigate the plan's air quality impacts, understating the plan's impacts on agricultural lands, and failing to adequately analyze and mitigate the plan's impacts from particulate matter pollution.