CEQA Industry Update: AB 52

On June 18, 2014, the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing on AB 52, as recently amended by Assembly Member Gatto (D-Burbank). A current version of AB 52 can be found here. Although likely subject to amendment, we highlight a few features of the proposed bill.

AB 52, as currently amended, proposes to establish “tribal cultural resources” as a new category of resources under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Tribal cultural resources are defined as “sites, features, places, objects with cultural value to descendant communities, or cultural landscapes” that are included on: (1) California’s Register of Historical Resources; (2) a local register of historical resources; or (3) be deemed “significant” in that it is associated with events or people that have made a significant contribution to California’s history and cultural heritage; embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region, or method of construction; or has or may be likely to contain important information in history or prehistory. Despite this statutory definition, AB 52 provides a lead agency with discretion to determine that a resource is a “tribal cultural resource” if it does not meet the above criteria.

AB 52 would require, among other things, that lead agencies, under certain circumstances, formally consult with federally recognized Indian tribes to determine whether impacts resulting from a proposed project would have the potential to cause a substantial adverse change to a tribal cultural resource. The bill would allow a lead agency to issue a permit or grant approval for a project with a significant impact on tribal cultural resources only if: (1) mitigation measures, as agreed to during consultation, are forwarded to the lead agency’s decision making body as mitigation measures in the final environmental review document; (2) the Indian tribe accepts other mitigation measures proposed in the environmental review document; (3) consultation between the lead agency and Indian tribe has occurred; or (4) the Indian tribe failed to comment on or reject proposed mitigation measures during the public comment period.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, chaired by Senator Hill (D- San Mateo), is currently analyzing AB 52. As always, we will continue to monitor this bill and provide regular updates, as well as any additional legislative developments regarding CEQA. If you want more information, please feel free to contact us at dtemblador@hthglaw.com or aguernsey@hthglaw.com.

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The materials and information in this article have been prepared by Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey LLP for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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