California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires state and local agencies to identify any significant environmental impacts that occur as a result of their actions. CEQA also requires that these agencies avoid or mitigate any impacts to the extent feasible. One of the District’s directives is to review and comment on the air quality analyses included in the CEQA documents prepared for projects in our jurisdiction. The District seeks to provide guidance to lead agencies and project applicants so that their air quality analyses are complete, comprehensive, and will stand up to legal scrutiny.
CEQA Handbook: To assist lead agencies and project applicants as they prepare air quality analyses, the District has produced the Handbook for Assessing and Mitigating Air Quality Impacts. This document provides guidance on how to accurately assess and mitigate project-related impacts to air quality. This document also contains “thresholds of significance” for air quality impacts.
CEQA Tools: A number of tools are available to assist lead agencies and project applicants when preparing air quality analyses for CEQA documents:
- The URBEMIS model is a software program that allows a user to calculate the amount of pollutant emissions generated by a land use project. The software can be downloaded for free here: www.urbemis.com
- Emissions generated by the construction of a roadway can be analyzed with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District’s (SMAQMD) Roadway Construction Emissions Model.
- In 2005, the State Air Resources Board published the “Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective”. This document provides information concerning land use compatibility issues associated with placing sensitive receptors near certain kinds of sources that produce toxic air contaminants.
- The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) has produced technical guidance entitled Health Risk Assessments for Proposed Land Use Projects which can be used when conducting health risk assessments to quantitatively evaluate impacts from toxic air contaminants.
Climate Change: The issue of climate change has become increasingly connected to the CEQA process in recent years. As a result of the passage of legislation aimed at combating climate change, recent case law, and the involvement of the State Attorney General, the District recommends that impacts to climate change be evaluated for every CEQA project. A number of helpful resources exist to assist with this evaluation:
- The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) has produced several resources to help address the issue of climate change:
- CAPCOA’s CEQA and Climate Change document provides guidance on evaluating greenhouse gas emissions from projects subject to CEQA.
- The Model Policies for Greenhouse Gases in General Plans is a resource for local governments to incorporate policies into their general plans for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Assembly Bill 32 (AB32)
The California Attorney General’s Office has gone on record supporting the concept that land use is inter-connected with climate change. The Attorney General’s Office has submitted comment letters highlighting the need to address greenhouse gas emissions in CEQA documents. More information can be found on the Attorney General’s CEQA website including comment letters issued to jurisdictions in California.
For more information on the District’s efforts to address Climate Change and other useful links, please see our Climate Change webpage.