CEQA Thresholds and 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.

Announcement:

On Wednesday, April 20, 2022, the Air District Board of Directors held a public meeting and adopted the proposed CEQA Thresholds for Evaluating the Significance of Climate Impacts From Land Use Projects and Plans. Adoption of these thresholds is not subject to CEQA review pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 21065 (definition of a CEQA “project”) and CEQA Guidelines Sections 15064.7 (requirements for adopting thresholds of significance) and 15061(b)(3) (commonsense exemption). For more information please see the April 20, 2022, Board of Directors Agenda and Presentation.

Planning and Climate Protection
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Update to the CEQA Thresholds of Significance for Climate Impacts

The Air District has adopted updated thresholds of significance for climate impacts. The Thresholds of Significance Justification Report presents the Air District’s thresholds of significance for use in determining whether a proposed project will have a significant impact on climate change and provides the substantial evidence that lead agencies will need to support their use of these thresholds. Updated CEQA Guidelines for applying these thresholds of significance will be coming soon.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The Draft Justification Report: CEQA Thresholds for Evaluating the Significance of Climate Impacts From Land Use Projects and Plans will be available for review during a 30-day public comment period. It will describe the logic behind the qualitative approach and corresponding proposed thresholds.
Staff had been investigating options for recommended stationary source thresholds but have paused that work to focus on the thresholds for land use projects and plans. Once the project and plan level thresholds are adopted, staff will turn our attention to the stationary source threshold and further investigate appropriate approaches.
The proposed thresholds to evaluate climate impacts from land use projects are qualitative, therefore there is no bright-line (quantitative) level to mitigate below. Projects that decline to integrate qualitative design elements can alternatively demonstrate consistency with a local Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Strategy that meets the criteria of the State CEQA Guidelines section 15183.5(b).
There is no proposed construction-related climate impact threshold at this time. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from construction represent a very small portion of a project’s lifetime GHG emissions. The proposed thresholds for land use projects are designed to address operational GHG emissions which represent the vast majority of project GHG emissions.
The Air District is updating the CEQA Guidelines and will provide details on how projects can apply the new proposed Thresholds of Significance for Climate Impacts. The updated Guidelines will be released once the Board of Directors acts on the updated Thresholds of Significance for Climate Impacts.
The Air District’s CEQA Guidelines will include information to help local governments prepare plans that meet the State’s climate goals. The updated Guidelines will be released once the Board of Directors acts on the updated Thresholds of Significance for Climate Impacts. Additionally, the Air District is working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to address this issue in the 2022 Scoping Plan.
The Air District does not approve or “certify” projects or plans for consistency with the State CEQA Guidelines. The Air District will provide guidance on how to meet the criteria of the State CEQA Guidelines and how to ensure a plan is robust enough to meet the State’s climate goals.

If you would like to receive notifications and information on the update to the CEQA Guidelines or the CEQA Thresholds of Significance, please sign up on our CEQA Guidelines email list below.

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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: 5/4/2022