New BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines
The Bay Area Air Quality
Management District (BAAQMD) just adopted new CEQA Guidelines that will affect the
environmental review of all new projects located within the District's nine-county
jurisdiction. In this issue of our
periodic eAlerts we provide a summary of the major changes, and we provide you
with a link to the complete 220-page document. We also highlight the recent changes to the Statewide CEQA
Guidelines, which became effective on March 18, 2010.
New Feature: Our previous eAlerts are now archived at: DHA eAlerts Archive
As always, let us know if there's anything else we can do to help lighten your work load.
Doug Herring, AICP
[All photos Copyright 2010 by Douglas Herring]
New Air District CEQA Guidelines
On June 2, 2010 the Bay
Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted updated California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) thresholds of significance and CEQA
Guidelines. The updated BAAQMD
CEQA Guidelines represent the first
revision to this important document since 1999. The new, lower thresholds of significance for criteria air
pollutants became effective immediately; new risk and hazards thresholds for
new receptors will take effect on January 1, 2011. The updated guidelines can be downloaded at:
BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines
The California Environmental Quality Act Air Quality
(BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines) were
developed in part to provide guidance to the nine counties under BAAQMD's
jurisdiction on how to comply with recent greenhouse gas legislation (AB 32 and
SB 97) as they conduct CEQA review of proposed development projects and
planning documents. Consequently,
the updated BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines include new thresholds for greenhouse gas
emissions that are also consistent with the amended Statewide CEQA Guidelines,
which became effective March 18, 2010 (see next article).
The updated BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines also address recent
changes to both State and federal air quality standards for ozone and
particulate matter (PM). The
stricter standards were developed in the wake of increased evidence of the
human health hazard caused by exposure to these pollutants. Because toxic air contaminants (TACs)
also threaten human health, the updated BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines also require
increased scrutiny of TACs.
Although the BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines are not legally binding,
in practice, lead agencies throughout the Bay Area adhere to the standards
established by the BAAQMD guidelines. Most jurisdictions use the standards for their air quality standards of
significance for CEQA review.
Following is a brief summary of the major changes to the BAAQMD
- Lower thresholds for
criteria air pollutants. Previously, the thresholds
of significance for project operations were 80 pounds per day (lb/day) or 15
tons per year (tpy) for reactive organic gases (ROG), nitrogen oxides (NOx),
or particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10). There were no standards for PM with a
diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5). The new operational thresholds are 54 pounds lb/day or 10
tpy for ROG, NOx, and PM2.5. The thresholds for PM10 are 82 lb/day or 15 tpy.
- New greenhouse gas (GHG)
threshold. The Global Warming
Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32) requires a reduction of Statewide GHG
emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The GHG thresholds established in the BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines are set at
levels at which a project would not be expected to substantially conflict with
the State goals promulgated by AB 32.
The thresholds depend on
the type of project being evaluated.
For typical land use development projects (residential, commercial, industrial, public
facility, etc.), one of three thresholds may be applied:
- Project complies with an qualified and formally adopted GHG
Reduction Strategy; or
- Project emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2E)
would not exceed 1,100 metric tons per year (MT/yr); or
- Project emissions of CO2E would not exceed 4.6
MT/yr per service population (SP), i.e., residents plus employees.
For planning documents,
such as general plans, the threshold for GHG is 6.6 MT/SP/yr, or compliance
with a GHG Reduction Strategy. For
stationary sources, the limit is 10,000 MT/yr.
- Community risk and hazard assessment. TAC and PM2.5
emissions provide the basis for evaluating potential health impacts to a
community. The updated BAAQMD CEQA
Guidelines now require lead agencies to evaluate potential community exposure
within a Zone of Influence defined as a 1,000-foot radius from the property line
of a new source or new receptor.
(The lead agency should enlarge the radius if a project could be
adversely affected by sources of risk or hazard that lie outside the 1,000-foot
radius.) A project would have a
significant health hazard impact if:
- The project would conflict with a qualified Community Risk
Reduction Plan; or
- The project emissions of TACs and PM2.5 would result
in an increased cancer risk greater than 10 in 1 million or an increased
non-cancer risk of a Hazard Index (chronic or acute) above 1.0; or
- The project would increase the annual average ambient PM2.5
concentration more than 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3).
The thresholds for
cumulative impacts employ the same parameters listed above, but the limits are
100 in 1 million cancer risk, greater than 10.0 Hazard Index, or an increase in
the annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration of more than 0.8 µg/m3. Jurisdictions with elevated risk levels
are strongly urged by the Air District to develop and implement Community Risk
Reduction Plans to reduce community exposure to TAC and PM2.5
The updated BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines
provide new screening criteria for projects, specify methodologies for
calculating GHG emissions and community risk, and recommend GHG reduction
strategies for adoption. The
BAAQMD maintains an inventory of TAC and PM2.5 concentrations from
permitted stationary sources and freeways and major roadways that can be used
for screening proposed projects for health risk impacts.
The preceding discussion just touches
on some the highlights of the new BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines. DHA can assist you in ensuring that
your projects comply with the full set of guidelines.
Amended Statewide CEQA Guidelines
On December 30, 2009 the California
Natural Resources Agency adopted amendments to the Statewide CEQA Guidelines,
the official regulations for compliance with the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The amendments, which took effect on March 18, 2010, were developed to
comply with Senate Bill 97, which directed the Resources Agency to adopt
guidelines for the analysis and mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. You can find the complete set of
The amendments add two new substantive sections to the
Guidelines. Section 15064.4
provides guidance on determining the significance of impacts from GHG
. Section 15183.5
identifies how lead agencies may streamline the analysis of GHG emissions by
tiering from program-level plans or program environmental impact reports.
The amendments add compliance with "plans or regulations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions" to the list of previously approved
plans that a lead agency may rely on when making a determination that a
proposed project's incremental contribution to a cumulative impact is not "cumulatively
considerable," and is therefore not significant. However, the GHG plan or regulations must have been adopted
through a public review process, and the lead agency must explain how implementation
of the plan or regulations will ensure that the project's incremental
contribution to the cumulative effect is not cumulatively considerable.
The CEQA Guidelines amendments make the following substantive
modifications to the Environmental Checklist, typically used as the basis for an
Initial Study, presented in Appendix G of the Guidelines:
- Adds consideration of forest resources to the
evaluation of impacts to agricultural resources;
- Creates a new section on GHG emissions;
- Modifies the approach taken in the evaluation of
traffic impacts. The focus is
shifted from impacts on roadway capacity and intersection levels of service to
consistency with transportation plans that encompass the overall circulation
system (including mass transit and pedestrian/bicycle facilities). (However, for projects generating over
100 peak-hour vehicle trips, congestion management agencies will continue to
require a quantified level of service analysis, so this change will likely not
affect larger projects.)
- Removes consideration of parking capacity as a potential
|Who Is Douglas Herring & Associates?
Douglas Herring & Associates (DHA) works with public agencies, developers, and other businesses
in California to expertly obtain the environmental and planning approvals needed to move projects from the conceptual stage to physical, benefit-generating reality in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Since 1997, DHA has helped dozens of California cities and counties and scores of other businesses and organizations save money while obtaining high-quality planning and environmental analysis services necessary to get their projects expeditiously approved and built. Learn more on our website: Douglas Herring & Associates
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