New BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines June 2010
In This Issue
New Air District CEQA Guidelines
Amended Statewide CEQA Guidelines
Who is Douglas Herring & Associates?
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.

El Cerrito trees at dusk

New Feature:
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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]
Alaska open water panorama

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 Guidelines (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 CEQA Guidelines:
  • 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:
  1. Project complies with an qualified and formally adopted GHG Reduction Strategy; or
  2. Project emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2E) would not exceed 1,100 metric tons per year (MT/yr); or
  3. 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:
  1. The project would conflict with a qualified Community Risk Reduction Plan; or
  2. 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
  3. The project would increase the annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration more than 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter (g/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 g/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 concentrations.

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 amendments at: CEQA Guidelines

The amendments add two new substantive sections to the Guidelines.  Section 15064.4 provides guidance on determining the significance of impacts from GHG emissions.  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.
Gaw Samui beach
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 environmental effect.

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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