Archives: January 2020

Christopher Luke Stiles

Christopher Luke Stiles

Partner

Mr. Stiles’ practice focuses on land use and environmental law, with emphasis on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the State Planning and Zoning Law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act, the California Endangered Species Act, air and water quality, natural resources, wetlands, and related matters. He handles all phases of the land use entitlement and permitting processes, including administrative approvals and litigation.

Before joining Remy Moose Manley, LLP, Mr. Stiles worked as a graduate fellow at the California Energy Commission, where he worked on a number of land use and environmental issues relating to energy in California, including the siting and licensing of new power-plant projects. While in law school, he clerked with the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Game (now Department of Fish and Wildlife), and the Delta Stewardship Council.

Mr. Stiles has worked on an array of cases involving various state and federal land use and environmental laws. His representative matters include:

  • Represented GSW Arena LLC as associate counsel in litigation challenging an EIR and various entitlements for an event center and mixed-use development project proposed by the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Assisted in successful defense on appeal before the First District Court of Appeal (Mission Bay Alliance v. Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 160).
  • Represented the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency as associate counsel in challenge to Tahoe Area Regional Plan and associated environmental review. Assisted in successful defense on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (9th Cir. 2016) 840 F.3d 1106).
  • Represents California High-Speed Rail Authority in on-going preparation of multiple EIR/EISs for the statewide high-speed train project. Assisted in litigation defending EIR prepared for Merced-to-Fresno section of the project.
  • Represented California Department of Water Resources in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Study (EIR/EIS) and related litigation for a water conveyance project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta known as the California WaterFix.
  • Represents numerous public agencies and private developers through environmental review and litigation for various commercial, residential, and mixed-use development projects.

Mr. Stiles teaches several land use and environmental law continuing education classes and seminars each year for professional organizations such as the Association of Environmental Professionals.

Education

  • J.D., University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2011 (Environmental Law Concentration)
  • B.A., Political Science (minor in Urban Studies & Planning), University of California, San Diego, 2004

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of California
    • Environmental Law Section
  • Sacramento County Bar Association
    • Environmental Law Section
  • California State Courts
  • U.S. District Courts (Northern, Eastern and Central Districts)
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • California Climate Change Law and Policy Reporter, Editorial Board, 2015-2016
  • California Land Use Law and Policy Reporter, Editorial Board, 2016-present
  • Selected for inclusion in the Rising Stars sections of the 2017-2019 Northern California Super Lawyers® magazine

Fifth District Court of Appeal Upholds Air Pollution Control District As Proper Lead Agency, Finds Permit Requirements Provide Substantial Evidence For EIR Emissions Estimates, And Holds EIR Lacked “Reasoned Analysis” For Rejecting Additional Mitigation Measures

In Covington v. Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 867, the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed in part the judgement of the trial court by holding that the District is the proper CEQA lead agency and that permit requirements provide substantial evidence to support the EIR’s fugitive emissions estimates for a proposed geothermal power project; and reversed in part by holding that the District’s feasibility assessment of a mitigation measure proposed by EIR commenters was flawed and required more “reasoned analysis.”

Background

In July 2014, the District certified the Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project joint document EIR/EIS prepared for a proposed geothermal energy facility located on national forest land in Mono County. The project was proposed by Ormat Nevada, Inc., and Ormat Technologies, Inc. (“project proponents”) to be located adjacent to an existing geothermal power complex in an area that has been developed for geothermal activity since 1984. The joint document was prepared by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the District, with the state agency serving as the CEQA lead agency. The project was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels by using heat extracted from water pumped from a deep geothermal reservoir to fuel a closed-loop system that would ultimately produce electricity. The reaction, however, would produce n-pentane (normal pentane)—a non-toxic reactive organic gas but a precursor to ozone—which would leak in some amount leak from the system and result in fugitive emissions. The EIR concluded that the amount of fugitive emissions would not exceed 410 pounds per day.

The Laborer’s International Union of North America Local Union No. 783 and certain individual members (“Petitioners”) filed a petition for writ of mandate against the District and project proponents as real parties in interest claiming that the EIR’s fugitive emissions conclusions were not supported by substantial evidence, that the District was an improper lead agency, and that the District erred in its feasibility analysis for measures to further mitigate fugitive emissions. The trial court denied the petition in full. Petitioners appealed.

District is Proper Lead Agency

Petitioners argued that Mono County, not the District, was the proper CEQA lead agency as defined in Guidelines section 15051, subdivision (b), because it was the agency with more “‘general governmental powers’” over the project. While the Court agreed that “‘normally’” a county would be the CEQA lead, as the first non-federal agency to act on the project, the District was qualified under Guidelines section 15052, subdivision (c), to act as lead.  As further evidence, the Court pointed out that, for a while, the District appeared to be the only involved state agency because of its unique permit authority over an otherwise federalized project. The Court further reasoned that the County’s involvement is minimal in comparison because the project requires “only” a conditional use permit from the County for a “small portion” of its pipeline, which gave it lesser responsibility for “approving the project as a whole,” thereby making the District the proper CEQA lead.

Permit Provides Substantial Evidence

Petitioners also argued that “the record does not contain substantial evidence to support the [EIR’s] conclusion that the Project’s n-pentane [fugitive] emissions will be limited to 410 pounds per day.” The EIR did not, in fact, include emissions calculations. But, the District countered that it provided total emissions numbers to Petitioner’s counsel under a public records act request prior to EIR certification. And, after EIR certification, it sent Petitioner’s counsel additional emissions data, albeit with some redactions. The District further argued that project compliance with permit requirements that limit daily fugitive emissions to 410 pounds per day provides substantial evidence to support the EIR’s conclusion that the project will not exceed that limitation. The Court agreed and cited to several cases for support, including Oakland Heritage Alliance v. City of Oakland (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 884 and Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376, where other courts held that “compliance with performance standards is a substitute for substantial evidence.” The Court also pointed out that the EIR contained several mitigation measures to lessen impacts from project fugitive emissions.

Mitigation Feasibility Assessment Lacks “Reasoned Analysis”

Petitioners then argued that additional feasible mitigation measures existed to further reduce fugitive emissions, provided by commenters on the Draft EIR, and that the District abused its discretion in finding them infeasible. The District countered  that the project’s required use of “‘best available technology’” and “‘state of the art equipment’” was enough to reduce impacts to less than significant, thereby rendering additional measures irrelevant. The Court, while not invalidating the District’s conclusion, required it to provide a “good faith, reasoned response” explaining why the specific technologies suggested by commenters, which are successfully used in other industrial facilities, could not be used for the project to further reduce impacts. Without such explanation, the Court contended that the EIR would not contain “a sufficient degree of analysis to enable decision makers to make an intelligent and informed decision,” pursuant to Guidelines section 15151.

– Casey Shorrock

Casey A. Shorrock

Casey A. Shorrock

Associate

Ms. Shorrock joined the firm as an associate in 2019. Her practice focuses on environmental and land use law and includes CEQA, NEPA, natural resources, endangered species and wetlands, air and water quality, climate change, solid waste, wildfire prevention regulation, and local environmental and land use ordinances. Ms. Shorrock also specializes in environmental document review and consultant coordination.

Ms. Shorrock’s representative matters include:

  • Associate outside counsel to the High Speed Rail Authority of the State of California for the environmental planning and permitting of the Statewide High Speed Rail Project
  • Associate outside counsel representing the City of Los Angeles in Ninth Circuit litigation challenging the FAA’s approval of the Bob Hope “Hollywood Burbank” Airport Replacement Passenger Terminal Project and issuance of its Final EIS/ROD under NEPA
  • Associate outside counsel to the City of Los Angeles for its Safe Sidewalks LA Program EIR
  • Associate outside counsel representing the City of Monterey in litigation challenging the approval of the Monterey Peninsula Airport District’s Updated Airport Master Plan and certification of the addendum to its Final EIR
  • Associate outside counsel representing the Town of Danville in litigation challenging Contra Costa County’s approval of the Tassajara Parks Mixed-Use Development Project and certification of its Final EIR
  • Associate outside counsel representing East Sacramento Ranch, LLC, in litigation defending Sacramento County’s approval of the NewBridge Specific Plan and certification of its Final EIR and assisting in successful settlement negotiation
  • Associate outside counsel to Divert, Inc., for environmental planning and permitting of its organic waste recovery and reuse facilities in the City of Turlock
  • Associate outside counsel to Westpark Communities, for the Sierra View & Sierra Vista Specific Plan Redesignation and Rezoning Project combined CEQA document in the City of Roseville
  • Associate outside counsel to Evergreen Sierra East, LLC, and Cresleigh Homes Corporation, for the College Park Mixed-Use Development Project EIR in the City of Rocklin

Prior to attending law school, Ms. Shorrock had a career as an environmental consultant and planner, working with and for agencies at all levels of government, with special experience on tribal projects. In this capacity, Ms. Shorrock managed the environmental review process for a variety of development and infrastructure projects and government actions, including preparation of state, federal, tribal, and joint environmental documents, alongside a focus on federal permitting and streamlining of environmental regulatory compliance.

During law school, Ms. Shorrock interned for Judge Kimberley J. Mueller at the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, and worked as a researcher and editor for a UC Davis law school professor on an article testing administrative law theories. Ms. Shorrock also was a summer associate for Remy Moose Manley, LLP. While at McGeorge, Ms. Shorrock was awarded the Stauffer Charitable Trust Fellowship for her paper entitled Environmentally Responsible and Streamlined Development in California: The Promise of CEQA’s Class 32 Exemption and Witkin Awards for academic excellence in Environmental Law and Oceans/Coastal Law. Ms. Shorrock attended law school on a full scholarship as an Anthony M. Kennedy Fellow.

Education

  • J.D., University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2019 (Water and Environmental Concentration)
  • B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1999

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of California, No. 328414,
    Environmental Law Section
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Federal Bar Association, Sacramento Chapter
  • California Lawyers Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Sacramento County Bar Association
  • California Association of Environmental Professionals

Bridget K. McDonald

Bridget K. McDonald

Associate

Bridget K. McDonald is an associate attorney in the Sacramento-based boutique law firm of Remy Moose Manley, LLP, which specializes in environmental law, land use and planning, water law, initiatives and referenda, and administrative law generally. Ms. McDonald joined the firm in 2019.

Ms. McDonald’s practice focuses on land use and environmental law, handling all phases of the land use entitlement and permitting processes, including administrative approvals and litigation. Her practice includes the California Environmental Quality Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the State Planning and Zoning Law, natural resources, endangered species, air and water quality, and other land use environmental statutes.

Ms. McDonald received her Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies from the University of Southern California in 2012 and her Master of Arts degree from the University of Southern California in 2013. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California at Davis, King Hall School of Law in 2019, with a certificate in environmental law and public service law.

During law school, Ms. McDonald was the managing editor of Environs, the Environmental Law and Policy Journal, the symposium chair for the Environmental Law Society, and the co-founder of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Ms. McDonald also served as a research assistant to Professor Richard Frank, professor of environmental practice and director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center, as well as a teaching assistant for the legal research and writing program. Ms. McDonald participated in the Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, where she advanced to the quarterfinals and won Best Oralist for the first preliminary round. As a law student, Ms. McDonald practiced in the Aoki Water Justice Clinic, and externed for the California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board’s Office of Enforcement.

After graduating from graduate school, Ms. McDonald oversaw the Los Angeles events and outreach department for the national nonprofit organization, Best Friends Animal Society. Just prior to law school, Ms. McDonald worked as a legal assistant for a boutique land use firm in Los Angeles, CA, where she prepared documents for land use entitlements and ongoing CEQA cases.

Education

  • J.D., University of California at Davis, King Hall School of Law, 2019 (Environmental Law and Public Service Certificate)
  • B.A., Environmental Studies, University of Southern California, 2012 (magna cum laude)

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of California, No. 327697
  • California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law, Public Law, and Litigation Sections
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section
  • Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment