CEQA Guidelines Update

Learn about the Air District’s California Environmental Quality Act Thresholds and Guidelines and how they help agencies evaluate air quality and greenhouse gas impacts from proposed projects and plans.

Update to the Current CEQA Guidelines and Thresholds of Significance

The Air District is currently updating its existing CEQA Guidelines and thresholds of significance. Since the last update in June 2010 (revised May 2017) to the CEQA thresholds and guidelines, there have been substantive changes to assumptions underlying data and analytical methodologies and mitigation approaches, as well as court decisions related to CEQA litigation. 

Additionally, since 2010 the urgent risks to public health and air quality posed by global climate change continues to come into focus and prominence. Addressing climate change is an Air District and State of California priority, and taking strong legislative and programmatic action to achieve deep greenhouse gas reductions is critical to the health of the people and the planet.

Accordingly, the Air District is working on an update to reflect new or revised requirements in the State CEQA Guidelines, recent court decisions, state and local policies and programs, improved analytical methodologies, and new mitigation strategies. This update is needed to ensure that new land-use projects support the Bay Area’s ability to attain or maintain health-based federal and state ambient air quality standards, and to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals pursuant to 2050 climate stabilization science. The Air District intends to review current thresholds of significance criteria and establish new significance criteria where needed. 

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Current Air District CEQA Guidelines and Thresholds of Significance  

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 were designed to establish the level at which the Air District believed air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions would cause significant environmental impacts under CEQA. The thresholds 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 published 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 revise any outdated information in the Guidelines as part of its update to the CEQA Guidelines and thresholds of significance.

The table below includes the current version of the Air District’s CEQA Guidelines along with previous draft versions.

CEQA Guidelines

Date PostedCEQA GuidelinesRelated Documentstable-mobile-only-column
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5/8/2017CEQA Guidelines May 2017
N/A
5/8/2017
CEQA Guidelines:
CEQA Guidelines May 2017
Related Documents:
N/A
5/31/2012BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines_Final_May 2012
N/A
5/31/2012
CEQA Guidelines:
BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines_Final_May 2012
Related Documents:
N/A
5/3/2010Draft CEQA Guidelines May 2010
CEQA Guidelines Update Changes_May 27 2010 Final Draft


CEQA Comments and Responses from Workshops_May 2010


Summary Table Proposed CEQA TOS May 2010


Proposed TOS Report May 2010
5/3/2010
CEQA Guidelines:
Draft CEQA Guidelines May 2010
Related Documents:
CEQA Guidelines Update Changes_May 27 2010 Final Draft


CEQA Comments and Responses from Workshops_May 2010


Summary Table Proposed CEQA TOS May 2010


Proposed TOS Report May 2010
12/7/2009Draft BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines (12/09)
Tracked Revisions to CEQA Guidelines (12/09)


Proposed Thresholds of Significance (12/09)


Potential Revisions to Risk Thresholds (12/09)
12/7/2009
CEQA Guidelines:
Draft BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines (12/09)
Related Documents:
Tracked Revisions to CEQA Guidelines (12/09)


Proposed Thresholds of Significance (12/09)


Potential Revisions to Risk Thresholds (12/09)
11/11/2009Final Draft CEQA Guidelines (11/09)
Public Review Comments and Responses (11/09)


Proposed CEQA Thresholds of Significance (11/09)
11/11/2009
CEQA Guidelines:
Final Draft CEQA Guidelines (11/09)
Related Documents:
Public Review Comments and Responses (11/09)


Proposed CEQA Thresholds of Significance (11/09)

CEQA Guidelines Questions
If you have any questions about the CEQA guidelines and/or thresholds, please submit them below:
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Last Updated: 6/8/2021