California Environmental Quality Act

Learn about the California Environmental Quality Act and the Air District’s efforts to reduce local air quality impacts from proposed projects and plans.

CEQA is California's broadest environmental law. It helps guide the Air District in identifying and minimizing air quality impacts of plans and projects within the Bay Area. CEQA requires the Air District to follow a procedure of analysis and public disclosure of proposed projects, and to reduce or eliminate any related environmental impacts. The District prepares CEQA documents for our air quality plans and regulations, and also provides guidance to other public agencies regarding recommended methods to analyze and reduce air quality impacts.

CEQA Guidelines

Learn about the Air District’s California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines, which help agencies evaluate and minimize air quality impacts from proposed projects and plans.

UPDATE: May 9, 2017
On June 2, 2010, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Board of Directors unanimously adopted thresholds of significance to assist in the review of projects under the California Environmental Quality Act. These Thresholds are designed to establish the level at which the District believed air pollution emissions would cause significant environmental impacts under CEQA and were posted on the Air District’s website and included in the Air District's updated CEQA Guidelines (updated May 2012). The Thresholds are advisory and may be followed by local agencies at their own discretion.

The Thresholds were challenged in court. Following litigation in the trial court, the court of appeal, and the California Supreme Court, all of the Thresholds were upheld. However, in an opinion issued on December 17, 2015, the California Supreme Court held that CEQA does not generally require an analysis of the impacts of locating development in areas subject to environmental hazards unless the project would exacerbate existing environmental hazards. The Supreme Court also found that CEQA requires the analysis of exposing people to environmental hazards in specific circumstances, including the location of development near airports, schools near sources of toxic contamination, and certain exemptions for infill and workforce housing. The Supreme Court also held that public agencies remain free to conduct this analysis regardless of whether it is required by CEQA.

In view of the Supreme Court’s opinion, local agencies may rely on Thresholds designed to reflect the impact of locating development near areas of toxic air contamination where such an analysis is required by CEQA or where the agency has determined that such an analysis would assist in making a decision about the project. However, the Thresholds are not mandatory and agencies should apply them only after determining that they reflect an appropriate measure of a project’s impacts.

The Guidelines for implementation of the Thresholds are for information purposes only to assist local agencies. Recommendations in the Guidelines are advisory and should be followed by local governments at their own discretion. These Guidelines may inform environmental review for development projects in the Bay Area, but do not commit local governments or the Air District to any specific course of regulatory action.

The Air District is publishing a new version of the Guidelines dated May 2017, which includes revisions made to address the Supreme Court’s opinion. The May 2017 Guidelines update does not address outdated references, links, analytical methodologies or other technical information that may be in the Guidelines or Thresholds Justification Report. The Air District is currently working to update any outdated information in the Guidelines. Contact Jaclyn Winkel at 415-749-4933 for further information.

CEQA Comment Letters

View letters sent to local cities and counties by the Air District commenting on a project’s air quality analysis.

CEQA Tools

Access tools, resources, and documents that help agencies analyze local, regional and global air quality impacts from proposed projects and plans.

CEQA Meetings and Training

View information about past and upcoming meetings and free training sessions regarding the California Environmental Quality Act.

Community Risk Reduction Plans

View plans developed by the Air District and Bay Area communities to reduce local air quality risks and hazards.

Contact Us

Alison Kirk
Senior Environmental Planner, Planning and Research


Contact Us

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Last Updated: 8/20/2014