The Alameda Superior Court recently declared portions of the Warren-Alquist Act unconstitutional in Communities for a Better Environment v. Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (CBE v. Energy Commission). The Court found that California Public Resources Code section 25531(a) and a portion of section 25531(b) ― provisions of the Warren-Alquist Act concerning judicial review ―
California Supreme Court
Court of Appeal Rules Challenge to Constitutionality of Power Plant Licensing Appeals Process is Ripe for Judicial Review
California’s process to challenge thermal power plants will likely be put to the judicial test in the coming years. The California Court of Appeal has granted publication of its recent opinion in Communities for a Better Environment v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, (Dec. 22, 2017, No. A141299) __Cal.App.5th __, which reverses the trial court’s dismissal of a complaint by environmental groups Communities for a Better Environment and Center for Biological Diversity (collectively “Communities”), challenging the constitutionality of the limited judicial review available for thermal power plant licenses issued in California. You can find our previous post detailing Communities’ complaint here.
In January 2014, the Alameda County Superior Court dismissed Communities’ claims that statutory provisions of California’s power plant siting law, the Warren-Alquist Act, violated article VI, section 10 of the California Constitution. Under this unique facet of the Warren-Alquist Act, any challenge to a decision by the California Energy Commission on a thermal power plant license must be appealed directly to the California Supreme Court. (Cal. Pub. Resources Code, § 25531(a).) The trial court sided with the Energy Commission and the California State Controller, who argued that the case was not grounded in any actual existing controversy among Communities and the Commission, sought an advisory opinion only, and was not ripe for review. The trial court concluded that Communities had failed to meet its burden to show how its complaint could be amended to state a justiciable cause of action, and, thus, it dismissed the matter with prejudice and entered judgment in favor of the Energy Commission and the Controller.…
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High-Speed Rail Authority May Use Bond Funds – Supreme Court Rules
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”) is gaining more steam in keeping the High-Speed Rail Project (the “Project”) on track. Today, the California Supreme Court issued a decision declining to review an appellate ruling against the CHSRA.
In July of this year, the Third District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision ruling that…
Will the California Supreme Court Close the Door to a CEQA Exemption the Legislature Has Refused to Close?
The California Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, No. S207173 (case submitted May 28, 2014), a case that gives the Justices the opportunity to determine whether a City Council’s adoption of a voter-sponsored initiative measure, without submitting that measure to a popular vote, was a discretionary act that required CEQA review prior to approval. The Court of Appeal held that the City Council’s act was subject to CEQA and that the City Council should have conducted environmental review. (See Tuolomne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Sup. Ct. (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1006, cert. granted, No. S207173.)
It is established that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not apply to a project approved by ballot initiative, where the initiative was placed on the ballot by the voters and adopted by the voters in an election. (14 Cal. Code Regs. § 15378(b); DeVita v. County of Napa (1995) 9 Cal.4th 763, 794.)
In Tuolumne, however, the Appellants Wal-Mart and James Grinnell (jointly, Appellants) took a different approach in seeking to expand an existing Wal-Mart store to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the City of Sonora. The Appellants submitted a petition supported by the signatures of more than 20 percent of the City of Sonora’s 2,489 registered voters to expand the Wal-Mart. The City Council then chose not to submit the measure to an election, and instead, adopted the initiative as an ordinance on its own authority under California Elections Code section 9214(a). Although an EIR was prepared in advance, it was never certified by the City Council.
Under California Elections Code section 9214, when a project applicant submits a voter-sponsored initiative petition to the legislative body of a public agency, signed by at least 15 percent of registered voters, with a request that the ordinance be immediately submitted to a special vote, that body must either: (a) adopt the ordinance, without alteration; (b) immediately order a special election and place the measure on the ballot for popular vote; or (c) order a report pursuant to Elections Code section 9212, which allows for abbreviated environmental review.
The Justices seemed particularly interested in understanding the legislative policy behind the Elections Code’s apparent conflict with CEQA and closely questioned the parties at the hearing packed with interested parties.
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High Speed Rail Decision on Track for Review at Court of Appeal
Last Friday, Governor Brown’s administration (the “Petitioners”) filed a petition for extraordinary writ of mandate and application for temporary stay with the California Supreme Court, challenging Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney’s decision last November to halt construction of the high-speed rail project. On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court declined to consider the petition and instead transferred…
California Supreme Court Upholds Legislation to Eliminate Redevelopment Agencies, Invalidates Option for Agencies Survive by Sharing Tax Revenue
In a decision reflecting perhaps the worst-case scenario for the redevelopment community, the California Supreme Court largely upheld Assembly Bill X1 26, which requires the dissolution of redevelopment agencies across the State, but invalidated Assembly Bill X1 27, which would have given redevelopment agencies an option of continuing to exist if the agencies…
Ban on Plastic Bags Provides Definitive Rule on CEQA Standing
The California Supreme Court’s ruling on Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach decided two important issues regarding the interpretation and application of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). First, the Court decided the city of Manhattan Beach was not required to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) under CEQA before enacting…