Supreme Court Grants Review in Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority

This spring, we blogged on the opinion of the Second Appellate District Court of Appeal in Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 552, which upheld the use of a future baseline for the purposes of evaluating environmental impacts in appropriate cases.  On August 8, the California Supreme Court has granted review, rendering the court of appeal opinion uncitable and inciting speculation in the environmental law community that the Court might finally provide guidance on the baseline question. (CA Supreme Court Case No. S202828)

In that case, Petitioner Neighbors for Smart Rail argued that Exposition Metro’s use of a future baseline was improper for reviewing significant environmental impacts under CEQA, which requires an “existing conditions baseline.” The lower appellate court found that the CEQA Guidelines provide some flexibility to agencies in selecting an appropriate baseline, and that Exposition Metro’s incorporation of future population growth into its baseline was both realistic and proper. Exposition Metro was therefore not prevented, as a matter of law, from using its future baseline in evaluating environmental effects.

This holding seems to be in conflict with Fifth and Sixth District Court of Appeals in their opinions Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Assn. v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (2010) 190 Cal.App.4th 1351 and Madera Oversight Coalition, Inc. v. County of Madera (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 48.