Legally Dubious CAPs—A Tale of Two Counties

In 2011, San Diego and Sacramento Counties updated their General Plans without environmental impact reports (EIRs) that addressed greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. Instead, each county promised to adopt a Climate Action Plan (CAP) within one year.

San Diego County did adopt its CAP the following year but claimed that its 2011 EIR covered the CAP. Courts disagreed and ruled against San Diego County on all three of its appeals. A decade later and still without a CAP, Sacramento County is trying San Diego County’s discredited approach and relying on its old EIR from 2011. They are even using Ascent Environmental, the same consultants that misadvised San Diego County.

Avoiding a new EIR avoids CEQA’s requirements for enforceable measure and “substantial evidence” that the CAP will work as claimed. As our CAP Team has pointed out, Sacramento County’s CAP lacks both these requirements and suggests a lack of commitment to an effective climate plan. In previous comments, the CAP Team has asserted that consistent with CEQA guidelines:

  • Measures in the current CAP didn’t exist in 2011. There’s no way the 2011 EIR could have reviewed them.
  • Environmental and legal requirements have changed significantly since 2011.
  • The proposed CAP would permit projects without further greenhouse gas (GHG) review. Measures must have project-level detail and be enforceable.

In a March 22 letter to Sacramento County, the attorneys who successfully challenged San Diego County concurred. At the Sacramento County CAP Workshop the following day, Ascent asserted “factual differences” between the situations in San Diego and Sacramento County. The CAP Team believes that these “differences” have no substance and responded to Ascent’s claims in detail. For the details about why Ascent’s claims are dubious, check out our responses.

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