Public agencies prevailed in 71% of decisions involving the California Environmental Quality Act in 2022.

By Marc Campopiano, Lucas Quass, Natalie Rogers, and Kevin Homrighausen

Latham lawyers tracked key developments in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) case law throughout 2022. On April 20, 2023, Latham lawyers held a webcast highlighting important cases from the past year, summarizing practical takeaways, and covering trends in CEQA. (See the webcast and the corresponding 2022 CEQA Year in Review presentation.) Below is a compilation of the information from that annual review and patterns that emerged.

We analyze the key CEQA cases from 2022 and how they have impacted development in California.

By Marc Campopiano, Winston Stromberg, Daniel Brunton, Lauren Glaser, Kevin Homrighausen, and Natalie Rogers

The California Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal issued 50 published and unpublished opinions on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 2022. We review these cases in our forthcoming “CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development.”

Our annual comprehensive report summarizes

Public agencies prevailed in 71% of CEQA cases analyzed.

By James L. Arnone, Daniel P. Brunton, Nikki Buffa, Marc T. Campopiano, Peter J. Gutierrez, John C. Heintz, Lauren E. Paull, Aron Potash, Lucas I. Quass, Natalie C. Rogers, Jennifer K. Roy, and Winston P. Stromberg

Latham & Watkins is pleased to present its fifth annual CEQA Case Report. Throughout 2021 Latham lawyers reviewed each of the 51 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appellate cases, whether published or unpublished.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.

In 2021, the California Courts of Appeal issued 51 opinions that substantially considered CEQA while the US District Court for the Northern District of California issued one opinion. Notably, 2021 saw an increased focus on CEQA wildfire analysis. In cases like Sierra Watch v. County of Placer, the Court of Appeal ruled that the County of Placer failed to adequately analyze wildfire risks by wrongly assuming first responders would provide traffic control in the event of an emergency. And in Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado, the Court upheld a mitigated negative declaration in the face of public concerns that a bridge reconstruction project would result in significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation in case of a wildfire.

Also notable in 2021 was the rare occurrence of a Court of Appeal partially affirming the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion following a CEQA lawsuit. In Dunning v. Johnson, the Court found that a project developer had established a probability of demonstrating lack of probable cause for the underlying CEQA petition, as well as a probability of demonstrating that the petitioners pursued the CEQA litigation with malice.

We analyze the key CEQA cases from 2021 and their effects on development in California this year and beyond.

By Marc Campopiano, Jennifer Roy, Winston Stromberg, Daniel Brunton, and Natalie Rogers

Every year, we publish a comprehensive summary of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) judicial opinions and provide analysis of the key trends affecting development in California.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Court of Appeal issued 52 published and unpublished CEQA opinions last year, which

Developers and municipalities must continue to evaluate potential wildfire impacts on projects under CEQA and consider recent legislative changes.

By Marc T. Campopiano and Shivaun A. Cooney

Wildfires have posed increasing risks in recent years to the public and environment in California. The importance of understanding how wildfires may impact new development and infrastructure is more relevant than ever. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), developers and agencies are prompted to evaluate wildfire impacts.

Latham & Watkins recently hosted

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.

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.

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.

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.