California Appellate Court Holds That Governor is Not a "Public Agency" Under CEQA

Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Brown (2014)

229 Cal.App.4th 1416

California’s Third District Court of Appeal confirmed – perhaps to no-one’s great surprise – that California’s Governor is not a “public agency” whose decisions are subject to CEQA review.

At the heart of the case, is Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012 concurrence with the Secretary of the Interior’s determination that a request to build a casino on 305 acres of newly acquired tribal lands in Madera County would be in the tribe’s best interest, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. Challengers to the casino project argued before the Court of Appeal that Governor Brown was a “public agency”, and therefore subject to CEQA under Public Resources Code section 21063. They asserted that as a public agency, the Governor’s action triggered the CEQA requirement for environmental review.

The Court rejected the argument. The Court explained that section 21063, which enumerates the entities subject to the environmental statute, did not include the Governor, or the Governor’s Office. It held that for the Court to include the Governor, would violate “the explicit approach to the interpretation of CEQA compelled by CEQA section 21083.1, which we are not at liberty to do.”

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