SB 7 expands project eligibility, provides additional guidance regarding GHG emissions, and changes some procedural requirements.

By Nikki Buffa and Brian McCall

On May 20, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 7, the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act of 2021. SB 7 reinstates, with amendments, the Environmental Leadership Development Project (ELDP) provisions of the Public Resources Code — more commonly known as AB 900 — which expired on January 1, 2021. The basic premise of AB 900 and now SB 7 is to provide litigation streamlining under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for a certain class of projects that meet heightened environmental and labor standards. This blog post examines how SB 7 departs from AB 900 in a few key ways.

Project applicants and agencies alike should think carefully about developing robust analyses that demonstrate the adequacy of water supply.

By Marc T. Campopiano, Diego Enrique Flores, and Lucas I. Quass

Mark Twain is often credited with saying, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” This remains true in California, where drought conditions, climate change, and population growth throughout the state’s history have made water an increasingly valuable and regulated resource. The legal landscape involves complex questions related to water quality, water sustainability, and competing claims to water rights. One notable area of controversy involves the adequacy of water supply for new development projects.

Two decades ago, in 2001, the state legislature enacted Senate Bill (SB) 610 and SB 221 to promote sustainable long-term water planning. Collectively, SB 610 and SB 221 require public agencies to determine whether adequate water supply exists for certain large development projects as part of the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by, in part, requesting water supply assessments (WSAs) from water service providers.

The program will include a multi-jurisdictional cap-and-invest program and aims to address environmental justice and equity concerns.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Joshua T. Bledsoe, Benjamin Einhouse, and Brian McCall

On December 21, 2020, the Governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, as well as the Mayor of the District of Columbia, announced that their respective jurisdictions would establish the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) and released a memorandum of understanding (MOU) describing the agreed-upon principles for adoption and implementation of the TCI-P. While not part of the MOU, the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina released a statement signaling their desire to work with the states party to the MOU and the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) in general. On March 1, 2021, the TCI released draft Model Rules for public review. Once finalized, the Model Rules are intended to be adapted for use by each TCI-P signatory jurisdiction via state-specific rulemaking processes.

Public agencies prevailed in 68% of CEQA cases analyzed.

By James L. Arnone, Daniel P. Brunton, Nikki Buffa, Marc T. Campopiano, and Winston P. Stromberg

Latham & Watkins is pleased to present its fourth annual CEQA Case Report. Throughout 2020 Latham lawyers reviewed each of the 34 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appellate cases, whether published or unpublished. Below is a compilation of the information distilled from that annual review and a discussion of the patterns that emerged. Latham’s webcast discussing this publication and the key CEQA cases and trends of 2020 is available here.

The proposed amendments seek to clarify when short-form product warnings may be used and create new requirements for information about harmful chemicals.

By Michael G. Romey, Lucas I. Quass, and Kevin Homrighausen

Update: On February 19, 2021, OEHHA announced that the public comment period has been extended until March 29, 2021. OEHHA also scheduled a virtual public hearing to discuss the proposed amendments on March 11, 2021, at 10 a.m. PT.

On January 8, 2021, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) proposed amendments to the regulations of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65 or Prop 65). The proposed amendments seek to clarify the circumstances under which short-form product label warnings are permitted and create new requirements for identification of hazardous chemicals in short-form warnings.

The agency has further strengthened electrification targets and provided additional details on compliance options for Transportation Network Companies.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe, Charles C. Read, and Jen Garlock

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is developing the Clean Miles Standard and Incentive Program (Clean Miles Standard), a first-of-its kind regulation designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ride-sharing vehicles and increase the use of zero-emission vehicles.

CARB staff presented updates to the regulation at a November 2020

California appeals court decision increases the potential for CEQA challenges to power plant projects under the CEC’s jurisdiction.

By Marc T. Campopiano, Charles C. Read, and Kevin A. Homrighausen

In Communities for a Better Environment v. Energy Resources Conservation & Development Commission, the California First District Court of Appeal recently held that the State Legislature violated the California Constitution by limiting the scope of judicial review for California Energy Commission (CEC) decisions involving power plant siting to the California Supreme Court. Although the California Constitution gives the Legislature express authority to limit the scope of judicial review for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decisions, the court found there is no similar authority regarding appeals of CEC decisions.

The Supreme Court has rarely, if ever, agreed to hear CEQA challenges of CEC power plant decisions. Now, developers seeking to construct new power plants or modify existing power plants under the CEC’s jurisdiction may see an increase in legal challenges — including California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenges — in California’s trial courts. As a result, CEQA challenges to power plants may closely resemble other land use challenges in the state.

The novel regulation aims to reduce GHG emissions from ride-sharing vehicles in California.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe and Jen Garlock

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is developing the Clean Miles Standard, a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ride-sharing vehicles and encourage broader adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 1014.

The regulation will include two primary requirements related to: (1) increasing the percentage of total miles driven by ride-sharing companies using ZEVs, and

Developers and municipalities must now evaluate potential wildfire impacts from projects under recent amendments to CEQA, among other legislative changes.

By Marc Campopiano and Shivaun Cooney

Wildfires pose an increasingly serious threat to the public and environment in California with respect to air quality, climate change, and utility power shutoffs. The state’s string of historic wildfire seasons has prompted a number of changes to environmental policies. With recent amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Developers and local jurisdictions must evaluate wildfire impacts, among other changes. Understanding how wildfire risk affects new development and infrastructure has never been so important.

The Governor has issued an Executive Order with sweeping implications for the oil and gas industry and others.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Joshua T. Bledsoe, Nikki Buffa, and Brian F. McCall

On September 23, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-79-20, which will have sweeping implications for the oil and gas industry, automakers, low-carbon fuel producers, the logistics industry, and public transit agencies, among others (the Executive Order). Newsom announced the Executive Order against the backdrop of what he called “simultaneous crises,” none of which he argued is more impactful and forceful as the climate crisis. The press conference included Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), standing before a small fleet of zero-emission vehicles.

In what will likely be viewed as the most far-reaching measure, the Executive Order requires all passenger vehicle sales starting in 2035 to have zero emissions — a mandate that essentially bans sales of new internal-combustion-powered passenger vehicles in California. As discussed below, the Executive Order raises several significant issues.