At its weekly conference held on August 24, 2022, the California Supreme Court acted to modify its recent majority opinion in County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources (State Water Contractors) (2022) 13 Cal.5th 612, Case No. S258574. In granting the request, made in a letter signed by a number of leading CEQA practitioners, for modification to correct an erroneous statement in its opinion about required topics of EIR discussion (see my 8/19/22 post on counsel’s letter here), the Supreme Court issued an “Order Modifying Opinion” stating:
The majority opinion in this case, filed on August 1, 2022, and appearing at 13 Cal.5th 612, is modified as follows:
The last full sentence on page 13 of the filed opinion, beginning “The document must include”, is modified to read:
The document must include a description of the proposed project and its environmental setting and discussions of (1) the possible environmental effects of the project, (2) feasible measures to mitigate any significant adverse environmental effects of the project, (3) the comparative environmental effects of a range of reasonable alternatives to the proposed project, including a “no project” alternative, and (4) the cumulative impact of the project’s various environmental effects. (CEQA Guidelines, §§ 15124, 15126, 15126.4, 15126.6, 15130.) An EIR may also include a discussion of the economic and social effects of the project. (Id., § 15131.)
This modification does not affect the judgment.
(8/24/22 Order, emph. added.)
The Court’s corrective action in removing “economic and social effects” from its list of mandatory EIR discussions, and adding the sentence italicized above, makes clear – consistent with longstanding law – that an EIR’s required focus is on physical impacts to the environment, and that it may, but is not generally required to, discuss topics (such as “economic and social effects”) that do not fall into that category.
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