Air district guidelines cloud issue

Non-binding standards on building projects add uncertainty, officials sayNORTH BAY -- New guidelines by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on greenhouse gas emissions relating to construction projects have the potential to set forth clearer standards, but concerns have been raised that some provisions could increase the time and cost for the already-complex process of environmental impact reviews.

The air quality district, which oversees regulation for the nine-county Bay Area region, in early June issued “thresholds” designed to provide local agencies and municipalities with clearer compliance on the California Environmental Quality Act. The so-called thresholds, which are already in effect, lay out specific greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution factors for industrial facilities, commercial and private developments.

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The new guidelines are not binding but could nevertheless set the standard for cash-strapped agencies and cities on how to comply because CEQA has never issued statewide rules, according to Timothy Cremin, a principal attorney with Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson, a firm that has counseled numerous cities and agencies on CEQA matters and has offices in Santa Rosa, Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

“It provides some guidance,” he said. “State law requires that projects analyze greenhouse gases, but they leave local agencies the discretion. But the air district stepped in and provided some guidance on what sort of things are significant thresholds. I do think it does provide guidance on how to comply with CEQA. Agencies don’t have to follow it but probably will.”

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