On June 6, 2018, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) announced that it had issued a new technical advisory listing legislative CEQA exemptions located in statutes outside of Division 13 of the Public Resources Code. The advisory contains bullet point citations to more than 50 statutes and includes an Appendix A setting forth the full text of these exemptions, most of which are not contained in the CEQA Guidelines. The advisory notes that its list – which contains statutes codified in the Public Resources, Water, Penal, Government, Business and Professions, Education, Fish and Game, Health and Safety, Military and Veterans, and Welfare and Institutions Codes – is not exhaustive.
As CEQA practitioners know, the Legislature establishes statutory CEQA exemptions for certain projects and actions for a wide range of legislative policy reasons; unlike categorical (i.e., regulatory) exemptions designated for categories of projects by the Resources Agency, legislative CEQA exemptions apply in an absolute manner according to their terms, and notwithstanding the exempt action’s potential environmental effects. (See North Coast Rivers Alliance v. Westlands Water District (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 832, 850-851 [helpfully discussing distinctions between statutory and categorical exemptions under CEQA].)
OPR’s new technical advisory is a helpful resource and reminder to look outside CEQA (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) when analyzing whether the project you’re dealing with may be exempt.