Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments

3 Cal. 5th 497, 220 Cal. Rptr. 3d 294, 397 P.3d 989 (2017)

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Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments

California Supreme Court
3 Cal. 5th 497, 220 Cal. Rptr. 3d 294, 397 P.3d 989 (2017)

Facts

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a regional-planning agency, was tasked with evaluating the environmental impact of a regional-development plan for guiding San Diego’s transportation infrastructure from 2010 to 2050 (the plan). SANDAG’s environmental-impact report (EIR) projected that under the plan, greenhouse-gas emissions would fall through 2020 but would then continually rise through 2050. The EIR used three separate measures of significance in its analysis, but it did not explicitly analyze whether the projected emissions were consistent with an executive order establishing overall greenhouse-gas-emission reduction targets for the state of California. Instead, the EIR referred to the executive order and explained that, because there was no legal requirement to do so, the executive order’s emissions benchmarks had not been used to analyze the plan’s emissions impact. Ultimately, the EIR concluded that the plan would cause a significant impact in greenhouse-gas emissions, and it recommended mitigation measures. The California attorney general, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, and other environmental groups (the challengers) (plaintiffs) challenged the EIR, arguing that the emissions trend contravened the state’s climate-change goals and that the EIR should have explicitly analyzed the consistency of the projected emissions with the goals in the executive order. SANDAG argued that it was not required to include the executive order in its analysis.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Liu, J.)

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