A California state court has ruled that a climate action plan for San Diego County did not pass muster. Sierra Club v. County of San Diego, No. 37-2012- 00101054 (Cal. Super. Ct., San Diego Cnty. 4/19/13). Under California law, statewide greenhouse gas emissions must be at or below 1990 levels by 2020. The county determined, as part of a general plan update, that its emissions and those from community sources were potentially significant in the context of the law, and the county determined that it should adopt mitigation measures.

The overall process was set forth in a programmatic environmental impact report (EIR) prepared under a California Environmental Quality Act provision comparable to the federal National Environmental Policy Act. The programmatic EIR called for “a comprehensive and enforceable GHG emissions reduction measure that will achieve specified emission reductions.” The county developed a climate change action plan, but did not prepare a separate EIR for the plan. The court ruled the county’s approval of the plan invalid because no EIR had fully considered it. In addition, the court concluded that because the county’s plan included only voluntary reductions and no enforcement mechanism, it was contrary to the requirements of the general plan update or the programmatic EIR.