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Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish & Wildlife

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20226
Nos. S217763, (Cal., 11/30/2015)

The Supreme Court of California held that the state fish and wildlife agency violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Fish and Game Code when it approved a large development project in northwest Los Angeles County. The agency prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project, concluding, among other things, that the discharge of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the development would not significantly impact the environment. The agency used a legally permissible criterion of significance in determining whether the project was consistent with meeting statewide GHG emission reduction goals. Nevertheless, the EIR's finding that the project's emissions would not be significant under that criterion is not supported by substantial evidence. The agency, therefore, abused its discretion in concluding that the project's GHG emissions would have no significant impact. In addition, the EIR's mitigation measures calling for the capture and relocation of the stickleback, a fully protected species, constitute a prohibited taking under state law. And the appellate court erred in holding that plaintiffs failed to preserve their claims regarding Native American cultural resource and steelhead smolt impacts, as the plaintiffs had exhausted their administrative remedies. The court therefore reversed and remanded the case.