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lawyers reviewed each of the 51 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appellate cases, whether published or unpublished.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.

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.

Wildfires, ride-sharing, community choice aggregation, and more bring increased regulatory risk.

By Marc T. Campopiano, Charles C. Read, and Brian F. McCall

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has tremendous influence on public utility regulation in California and beyond. The CPUC has the biggest staff of any state utilities commission and has issued fines and penalties well in excess of US$2 billion. The CPUC has been very active with new rulemakings and proceedings that will impact utilities and a range of industries. Because of the CPUC’s outsize influence, many of these new regulatory developments may well be adopted by public utilities or public service commissions in other states. Below are summaries of five key developments at the CPUC.