California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The goal of the California Environmental Quality Act is to develop and maintain the environment now and for the future by requiring public agencies to identify the significant environmental effects of their actions; and to:
- Avoid those significant environmental effects, where feasible; or
- Mitigate those significant environmental effects, where feasible.
The California Environmental Quality Act applies to any project that will require approval from any state or local government agency. A project can be described as any activity that has the potential to have a physical impact on the environment. This is a broad definition and may include the enactment of zoning ordinances, the issuance of conditional use permits, and the approval of tentative subdivision maps.
For complete copies of the statute and guidelines as well as additional information, visit the California Environmental Quality Act web site.
California Clean Air Act
The California Clean Air Act establishes numerous requirements for district plans to attain state ambient air quality standards for criteria air contaminants. For example:
- The plan must have measures adequate to achieve five percent per year emission reductions or must contain all feasible measures and an expeditious adoption schedule
- 1.5 average vehicle ridership during high commute hours by 1999
- No net increase in emissions from new and modified stationary sources
- Best available retrofit technology for existing sources
The state ambient air quality standards must be achieved as expeditiously as practicable; there is no firm attainment deadline in state law as there is in federal law.
Federal Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act of 1970 was amended in 1977 and 1990 to extend the attainment deadlines. Current deadlines vary by pollutant and severity of pollution in the region. The latest deadline is the year 2010 for extreme ozone non-attainment areas (South Coast District is the only such area). This Act regulates 189 hazardous air pollutants.
Each state is required by the Clean Air Act to develop an implementation plan that will be approved by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Among the requirements to be included in each state implementation plan are:
- A mandate that the region achieve a three-percent annual reduction in emissions of ozone precursors including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)
- A requirement that new sources over 10 tons per year of VOC or NOx, and modifications to such sources, achieve lowest achievable emission rate (LAER) and offset their emission increases by equal reductions elsewhere in the region
- Transportation control measures to reduce vehicle trips
- Measures to increase average vehicle occupancy of commuters to employers of over 100 employees
Air Toxic Hot Spots Act
The Air Toxic Hot Spots Act requires facilities emitting specified quantities of pollutants to conduct risk assessments describing the health impacts to neighboring communities created by their emissions of numerous specified hazardous compounds. If the district determines the health impact to be significant, neighbors must be notified. In addition, SB 1731 requires the facility to develop and implement a plan to reduce the health impacts to below significance, generally within five years. Additional control requirements for hazardous emissions from specific industries are established by the California Air Resources Board and enforced by districts pursuant to the Tanner Act.