The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires government agencies in California to analyze and, when feasible, mitigate the environmental impacts of projects before approving them. In Woodward Park Homeowners Association v. City of Fresno (PDF), the Court of Appeal recently held that CEQA does not automatically require projects with significant air quality or greenhouse gas impacts to include onsite solar panels as a mitigation measure.
While the case is unpublished, it addresses a comment that is frequently raised in CEQA administrative proceedings—that if a project has significant air quality impacts, it must include solar panels. And its reasoning may be instructive for other projects that face this issue:
Woodward Park’s argument implies that it would be legal error not to require solar panels in virtually any project involving the construction of buildings. This cannot be correct. CEQA only requires an agency’s findings about impacts and mitigation to be supported by substantial evidence. The general proposition that buildings using solar power are better for air quality than those not using it is not enough to show that substantial evidence fails to support the findings of every agency that approves a building construction project without requiring solar panels.