Land Use and Ceqa

The California Legislature enacted the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970. CEQA recognizes the importance of input from public agencies that have “jurisdiction by law” over natural resource areas and requires public agencies to consider and disclose the environmental effects of a project to the public. The Placer County Air Pollution Control District (District) is established by the California Health and Safety Code as a public agency having primary responsibility for overseeing and regulating air pollution within Placer County. As a public agency, the District takes an active part in the intergovernmental review process under CEQA. In general, the District acts as a commenting agency in response to lead agencies’ requests to review and comment on environmental documents which are prepared by lead agencies (cities, county, and other public agencies) for discretionary land use development projects within Placer County.

The District works closely with local jurisdictions to provide professional assistance in the identification of air quality impacts associated with land use projects in Placer County. The District provides local agencies information about how to comply with CEQA through its CEQA Review Program. Staff review and sometimes comment on environmental documents, providing lead agencies with valuable information and technical support related to potential air quality impacts from land use projects. As a part of the review program, the District developed a CEQA Handbook in 2012, which was designed as an advisory tool with recommended mitigation measures, emission estimation models, and step-by-step procedures for conducting a thorough air quality analysis for land use projects. The District’s CEQA Handbook can be reviewed and downloaded from CEQA Air Quality Handbook.

In addition to the District’s CEQA handbook, the District’s Board of Directors adopted the Review of Land Use Projects under CEQA Policy in 2016. The policy established the thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants as well as greenhouse gases and the review principles which serve as guidelines for the District staff when reviewing and commenting on the environmental documents prepared by lead agencies. The detailed content of the policy and associated analytical assessments for significance thresholds can be reviewed and downloaded from CEQA Thresholds and Review Principles.

CEQA Modeling Analysis Tools

1. CalEEMod

Models are commonly used to calculate land use development project air emissions. During the review, various modeling tools are available for the project to evaluate its related air quality impacts. The District recommends using California Emissions Estimator Model (CalEEMod) to estimate both criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from land development projects. The latest model version (2016.3.1) and user’s guide can be downloaded at www.caleemod.com.

2. Roadway Construction Emission Model

The District recommends using the Roadway Construction Emission Model for road related construction and linear projects. The model is developed by Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (SMAQMD) and can be downloaded from here.

3. EMFAC Model

The Emission Factors (EMFAC) model is developed by California Air Resources Board (CARB) that contains population, activities, and emission factors from all types of motor vehicles operating on highways, freeways, and local roads in California. It can assess the mobile source emissions for each air basin, county, or statewide. CARB creates an EMFAC Web Database which can provide a quick and easy way to access commonly used EMFAC emissions and emission factors data without having to install and run EMFAC model. The EMFAC Web Database can be accessed from here.

If the project proposes a modeling analysis rather than the above Districts’ recommended models, please consult with the District staff prior to conducting analyses. 

Mitigation Recommendation

When concerns are identified pertaining to the air quality, District staff will recommend on-site and off-site mitigation measures to lead agencies for consideration. The list of recommended mitigation measures can be found at the District’s CEQA Handbook Appendix A (for construction impacts), C (for operational impacts), and G (for greenhouse has impacts). In addition to the District’s measure list, California Air Pollution Control Officer Association (CAPCOA) also prepared a report of Qualifying Greenhouses Gas Mitigation Measures from selected strategies to provide a common platform of information and tools for identifying feasible mitigation measures for greenhouse gas emission reduction.   District recommends on-site mitigation measures as the preferred mechanism to reduce potential air quality impacts from the proposed land use development projects.  

PCAPCD Off-Site Mitigation Fee Program

The District’s Board of Directors adopted the Land Use Air Quality Mitigation FundsPolicy in April 2001and amended it in December 2008. The policy resulted in establishing the PCAPCD Off-site Mitigation Fee Program which provided an alternative for land use development projects to offset the increased emissions from new land use development projects by paying monetary incentives and established guidelines for the use of air quality mitigation funds received from developers. The project developers can utilize this program as an optional mitigation measure when the on-site mitigations are insufficient to offset their related impacts to below the applicable thresholds. It is a voluntary measure which would be recommended by the District through the CEQA review process to the developers and lead agencies for consideration.

The fee is calculated based on the amount of emissions above the thresholds and the cost-effectiveness factor updated by the latest California Air Resources Board’s Carl Moyer Program Guideline Cost-effectiveness is a measure of the dollars provided for each ton of covered emission reductions. CARB reviews and adjusts it to reflect emission reduction market conditions. The current rate for the District’s off-site mitigation fee calculation is $18,260 per ton of ozone precursor emissions (ROG or NOx), effective January 1, 2016.

The Evolution of the District’s CEQA Review Program

2012
October, 2012 Board Meeting: The Board was introduced to the release of 1st CEQA Handbook prepared by Staff to explain the District’s CEQA Review Program.

2010
June, 2010 Board Meeting: The Board approved a motion to support the existing thresholds and directed staff to continue using the existing thresholds associated with land use projects.

2009
August, 2009: The District hosts its first Greenhouse Gas Workshop and Presentation for land use planners and CEQA practitioners.

2008
December, 2008 Board Meeting: The Board was informed of the Districts existing CEQA review program, including the District’s recommended thresholds, and staff discussed the compilation of a future “CEQA Handbook”.