November 2008


As part of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) “Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan,” the Board, on October 24, 2008, released its Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal on recommended approaches for setting Interim significance thresholds for greenhouse gases under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.

California law provides that climate change is an environmental effect subject to the CEQA.  Lead agencies, such as Airport Land Use Commissions, are therefore obligated to determine whether a project’s climate change-related effects may be significant, thereby requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Report and to impose feasible mitigation to substantially lessen any significant effects.

CARB is specifically requesting participation from the public stakeholders and local lead agencies.  The Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal suggests a “sector approach” due to the fact that “(1) some sectors contribute more substantially to the problem, and therefore should have a greater obligation for emissions reductions, and (2) looking forward, there are differing levels of emissions reductions expected from different sectors in or to meet California’s climate objectives.”

The PDSP includes flowcharts that address CARB’s “threshold concepts” for industrial projects and for residential and commercial projects.  The PDSP also states that that the staff is working on a proposal for an interim approach for thresholds for transportation projects.  CARB proposes, for example, a significance threshold of 7,000 metric tons of CO2e/year.  For Projects that go over that amount, an EIR would have to be prepared and “all feasible GHG mitigation measures implemented.”

CARB has identified a few questions to solicit public comment, but notes that the “list is not exhaustive.”

  • Will the recommended approaches have any unintended consequences, for example, encouraging the piecemealing of projects?
  • As set out in the attachments to the Staff Proposal, staff proposes to define certain performance standards (e.g., for energy efficiency) by referencing or compiling lists from existing local, State or national standards.  For some sub-sources of GHG emissions (e.g., construction, transportation, waste), ARB staff has not identified reference standards.  How should the performance standards for these sub-sources be defined?
  • Are any of the industrial, residential, or commercial project types eligible for categorical exemptions likely to contribute more significantly to climate change than staff’s preliminary analysis indicates?
  • For residential and commercial projects, staff has proposed that the GHG emissions of some projects that meet GHG performance standards might under some circumstances still be considered cumulatively considerable and therefore significant.  What types of projects might still have climate change-related impacts?

As noted above, since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.

As part of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) “Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan,” the Board, on October 24, 2008, released its Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal on recommended approaches for setting Interim significance thresholds for greenhouse gases under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.

California law provides that climate change is an environmental effect subject to the CEQA.  Lead agencies, such as Airport Land Use Commissions, are therefore obligated to determine whether a project’s climate change-related effects may be significant, thereby requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Report and to impose feasible mitigation to substantially lessen any significant effects.

CARB is specifically requesting participation from the public stakeholders and local lead agencies.  The Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal suggests a “sector approach” due to the fact that “(1) some sectors contribute more substantially to the problem, and therefore should have a greater obligation for emissions reductions, and (2) looking forward, there are differing levels of emissions reductions expected from different sectors in or to meet California’s climate objectives.”

The PDSP includes flowcharts that address CARB’s “threshold concepts” for industrial projects and for residential and commercial projects.  The PDSP also states that that the staff is working on a proposal for an interim approach for thresholds for transportation projects.  CARB proposes, for example, a significance threshold of 7,000 metric tons of CO2e/year.  For Projects that go over that amount, an EIR would have to be prepared and “all feasible GHG mitigation measures implemented.”

CARB has identified a few questions to solicit public comment, but notes that the “list is not exhaustive.”

  • Will the recommended approaches have any unintended consequences, for example, encouraging the piecemealing of projects?
  • As set out in the attachments to the Staff Proposal, staff proposes to define certain performance standards (e.g., for energy efficiency) by referencing or compiling lists from existing local, State or national standards.  For some sub-sources of GHG emissions (e.g., construction, transportation, waste), ARB staff has not identified reference standards.  How should the performance standards for these sub-sources be defined?
  • Are any of the industrial, residential, or commercial project types eligible for categorical exemptions likely to contribute more significantly to climate change than staff’s preliminary analysis indicates?
  • For residential and commercial projects, staff has proposed that the GHG emissions of some projects that meet GHG performance standards might under some circumstances still be considered cumulatively considerable and therefore significant.  What types of projects might still have climate change-related impacts?

As noted above, since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) designated the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as the lead agency for  its implementation.  The next milestone for CARB is developing a Scoping Plan outlining California’s strategy to achieve the 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limit.  So on October 15, 2008, CARB published its Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan:  A Framework for Change. The Scoping Plan contains the main strategies California will use to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Since this plan has the potential to affect just about every sector of California, CARB is seeking the public’s comments.  Comments on the Scoping Plan are due no later than December 10, 2008. The Scoping Plan will be presented for approval at the CARB’s December 11, 2008, meeting

The Scoping Plan proposes a comprehensive set of actions designed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in California.  Among the solutions it proposes are “improving our state’s infrastructure, transitioning to cleaner and more secure sources of energy, and adopting 21st century land use planning and development practices.”  Moreover, CARB lists as the key elements of its recommendations:

  • Establishing targets for transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions for regions throughout California, and pursuing policies and incentives to achieve those targets;
  • Developing a California cap-and-trade program that links with other Western Climate Initiative partner programs to create a regional market system; including California’s clean car standards, goods and movement measures, and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard;
  • Adopting and implementing measures pursuant to existing State laws and policies,
  • Expanding and strengthening existing energy efficiency programs as well as building and appliance standards;
  • Achieving a statewide renewables energy mix of 33 percent; and
  • Creating targeted fees, including a public goods charge on water use, fees on high global warming potential gases, and a fee to fund the administrative costs of the State’s long term commitment to AB 32 implementation.

Noticeably absent from the Scoping Plan is any mention of airports or aircraft.  This is due to the CARB’s perceived inability  to do much about airports and aircraft due to FAA’s pre-empting the field.  Indeed, about the only mention of airports and aircraft in the AB 32 materials comes in Appendix C of the Draft Scoping Plan:

Emissions from the fuel used in planes is an important consideration, however, the State does not have regulatory authority over aviation. ARB has not identified aviation specific measures; however, successful deployment of High Speed Rail could divert some air passengers to rail.

Draft Proposed Scoping Plan, Appendix C, p. C-21.  Nor does the Scoping Plan take the emissions of aircraft have while they are in air.

As a final note, there will be a public hearing on the Scoping Plan on November 20, 2008, in Sacramento, to consider the AB 32 Scoping Plan to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions in California.  Click here for the Agenda.