November 18, 2009, by
With the California High Speed Rail Authority moving forward on the Northern-Southern California high-speed rail (HSR) project, local agencies should be aware that they may be required to consider the HSR in analyses of the environmental impacts of their local projects.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a lead agency to identify and mitigate significant environmental impacts of a project, including cumulative impacts that result from local projects and projects outside the local agency's jurisdiction. A lead agency has a duty to use reasonable efforts to discover, disclose and discuss related projects which are under the administrative jurisdiction of other city, state, and federal agencies. (See id. § 15130(b)(1)(A); San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth v. City & County of San Francisco (1984) 151 Cal.App.3d 61, 74, n.13.)
These cumulative impacts include impacts from other "past, present, and reasonably foreseeable probable future projects." (CEQA Guidelines, §§ 15126.4, 15355.) The HSR may be considered a reasonably foreseeable probable future project for CEQA purposes, as the Authority certified a programmatic EIR/EIS for the project in November 2005 and is now preparing to evaluate project-level environmental impacts.
The degree to which a lead agency must analyze the impacts of the HSR in conjunction with its own local projects depends on several factors, such as the status of the design and project-level environmental review of the individual route segment that may impact the local project and whether the project impacts are related. Read Meyers Nave's full article here.