By Christopher Garrett, James Arnone and Joshua Bledsoe,

On Monday November 30, 2015, the California Supreme Court overturned the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (the Department) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Department’s approvals of the Newhall Ranch project. The Newhall Ranch project includes plans to develop almost 12,000 acres along the Santa Clara River west of the City of Santa Clarita, with up to 20,885 dwelling units housing nearly 58,000 residents as well as areas for commercial and other uses over the next 20 years.

Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish and Wildlife (Newhall Land and Farming Company), S217763, (Cal. November 30, 2015) struck down the Court of Appeal’s determination that the EIR and State Endangered Species Act approvals for the project were adequate. The California Supreme Court summarized its holding as follows:

“We conclude, first, that as to greenhouse gas emissions the environmental impact report employs a legally permissible criterion of significance—whether the project was consistent with meeting statewide emission reduction goals—but the report’s finding that the project‘s emissions would not be significant under that criterion is not supported by a reasoned explanation based on substantial evidence.

 Second, we conclude the report’s mitigation measures calling for capture and relocation of the stickleback, a fully protected species under Fish and Game Code section 5515, subdivision (b)(9), themselves constitute a taking prohibited under subdivision (a) of the same statute.

Finally, we hold that under the circumstances of this case plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies regarding certain claims of deficiency by raising them during an optional comment period on the final report.”

Read more on the background of the case and the California Supreme Court Decision here.