By Leslie Z. Walker

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (“BAAQMD”) was scheduled to be the first air district in the state to adopt quantitative as well as qualitative thresholds of significance for greenhouse gas emissions in January of 2010, but instead has delayed the decision until April of 2010. According to BAAQMD, the delay is to “provide more time for staff to meet with local governments, further develop analysis tools, and conduct trainings on applying the CEQA Guidelines.”

The BAAQMD proposes aggressive quantitative thresholds for plan-level and project-level analysis and stationary sources, in addition to qualitative thresholds for project-level and plan-level analysis. The district emphasizes that the thresholds are intended to serve in the interim until AB 32 regulations, incentives and programs have been implemented and CARB has recommended thresholds under SB 375 (See SB 375: A Subtle Shift in the State-Local Long Range Planning Paradigm). After those events take place, BAAQMD anticipates the need to revisit the thresholds.

The proposed thresholds are as follows:

  • At the plan level, BAAQMD proposes a quantitative threshold of 6.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year, or a qualitative threshold of compliance with a qualified climate action plan or similar criteria in a general plan.
  • At the project level, BAAQMD proposes two quantitative thresholds: 1,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year or 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year per person. The BAAQMD advises using caution with latter threshold, suggesting that the cumulative impact of a large project falling below this threshold may be significant.
  • For stationary sources, the BAAQMD proposed a threshold level of 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

For more information, see the California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines Update: Proposed Thresholds of Significance.

Leslie Z. Walker is an associate at Abbott & Kindermann, LLP.  For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, LLP at (916) 456-9595.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, LLP, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.