Friday, January 20, 2012

Judge Strikes Down Air Quality Rules

An Alameda County (California) Superior Court judge recently struck down CEQA guidelines established by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).  The Guidelines sought to "better protect the health and well being of Bay Area residents by addressing new health protective air quality standards, exposure to toxic air contaminants and adverse effects from climate change."  A challenge to the Guidelines was brought by representatives of the building industry, economic development groups and others claiming that the new rules would make the cost of development prohibitively expensive.

As often happens in court decisions, the judge did not rule on the substance of the Guidelines, but rather found that  BAAQMD, itself bound by CEQA, had not undertaken the necessary environmental review of the impacts of the Guidelines.  Solely on this basis, the rules were determined to be improper.

While the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are claiming victory, it is important to remember that his ruling was based on BAAQMD not following the proper procedures; the agency may promulgate the same Guidelines after conducting the necessary environmental review.

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