Governor signs three CEQA bills, vetoes one

Governor Jerry Brown announced this week that he signed the following CEQA-related bills:

AB 52: Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles)—Native Americans

This bill specifies that a project with an effect that may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a tribal cultural resource is a project that may have a significant effect on the environment. The bill requires a lead agency to begin consultation with a California Native American tribe that is traditionally and culturally affiliated with the geographic area of the proposed project, if requested to do so, prior to determining whether a negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or EIR is required for a project.

The bill provides examples of mitigation measures that may be considered to avoid or minimize impacts on tribal cultural resources. These provisions apply to projects that have a notice of preparation or a notice of negative declaration filed or mitigated negative declaration on or after July 1, 2015. The bill requires the Office of Planning and Research to revise on or before July 1, 2016, the guidelines to separate the consideration of tribal cultural resources from that for paleontological resources and add consideration of tribal cultural resources.

This bill also requires the Native American Heritage Commission to provide each California Native American tribe on or before July 1, 2016, with a list of all public agencies that may be a lead agency within the geographic area in which the tribe is traditionally and culturally affiliated, the contact information of those agencies, and information on how the tribe may request those public agencies notify the tribe of projects within the jurisdiction of those public agencies for the purposes of requesting consultation.

AB 1104: Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield)—Exemption for Biogas Pipeline

CEQA provides exemptions from its requirements for certain projects, including for a project that consists of the inspection, maintenance, repair, restoration, reconditioning, relocation, replacement, or removal of an existing pipeline, if specified conditions are met. (Pub. Resources Code, § 21080.23, subd. (a).)

This bill provides that, for purposes of that exemption, until January 1, 2018, “pipeline” also means a pipeline located in Fresno, Kern, Kings, or Tulare County, that is used to transport biogas, as the bill defines that term, and that meets the existing requirements for the exemption and all local, state, and federal laws. The bill would make legislative findings and declarations as to the necessity of a special statute for the Counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare.

SB 674: Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Hayward)—Exemption for residential infill projects

CEQA exempts from its requirements residential infill projects meeting specified criteria, including, among other things, that a community-level environmental review was adopted or certified within five years of the date that the application for the project is deemed complete and the project promotes higher density infill housing. For the purposes of this exemption, CEQA defines “residential” to include a use consisting of residential units and primarily neighborhood-serving goods, services, or retail uses that do not exceed 15% of the total floor area of the project.

This bill instead exempts as “residential” a use consisting of residential units and primarily neighborhood-serving goods, services, or retail uses that do not exceed 25% of the total building square footage of the project.


Vetoed—AB 543

Governor Brown also vetoed one CEQA-related bill, AB 543, which would have required the Office of Planning and Research to prepare and develop recommended amendments to the CEQA Guidelines that would establish criteria for a lead agency to assess the need for translating certain notices into non-English languages. The governor stated that existing federal and state laws already provide guidance to lead agencies regarding the circumstances which give rise to the need for translating public documents. “Translating public notices and other important information is often good practice,” Governor Brown noted. “In fact Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Government Code Section 11135 require lead agencies to do just that. The High Speed Rail Project and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan are examples of projects where the lead agency determined that translation of environmental review documents was merited.” The bill was presented by Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose).