CEQA Requires Correlation & Analysis between Air Emissions & Human Health Impacts; Vague Mitigation Measures Invalid

Sierra Club et al v. County of Fresno

Cal.Rptr.3d--- (2014) WL2199317

The Fifth District Court of Appeal recently held that an environmental impact report (“EIR”) was inadequate for failing to study air pollutant emissions caused by the project and its relation to human health impacts. The court also found that the EIR’s mitigation measures for long-term air quality impacts were vague, unenforceable and lacked specific performance criteria.

This case stemmed from a challenge to Fresno County’s approval of a project proposing development of the Central Valley’s first master planned retirement community for active adults aged 55 and older. The EIR did identify the types of air pollutants that the project will produce, but fell short in correlating this information, which was presented in tons per year for each pollutant, with the adverse human health impacts that could be expected to result from those emissions. The court concluded that without such an analysis the mere statement that significant adverse air quality impacts will have an adverse human health impact did not comply with CEQA.

The court held that the EIR’s mitigation measures for air quality impacts also failed to comply with CEQA by not specifying who was responsible for implementation. For example, one mitigation measure required HVAC systems to be equipped with an economically feasible and reasonably available catalyst system, but did not identify who would make such determinations. The court also held invalid a mitigation measure involving the selection and location of trees to protect buildings from energy consuming environmental conditions, by not identifying who would be selecting and locating the trees.

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