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AB-2444 California Environmental Quality Act: exemption: wildfire defense vegetation management projects.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 05/01/2020 09:00 PM
AB2444:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  May 04, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 2444


Introduced by Assembly Member Gallagher

February 19, 2020


An act to amend Section 21083 of add Section 21080.12 to the Public Resources Code, relating to environmental quality.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2444, as amended, Gallagher. California Environmental Quality Act: guidelines. exemption: wildfire defense vegetation management projects.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of, of an environmental impact report on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. CEQA also requires a lead agency to prepare a mitigated negative declaration for a project that may have a significant effect on the environment if revisions in the project would avoid or mitigate that effect and there is no substantial evidence that the project, as revised, would have a significant effect on the environment. CEQA requires the Office of Planning and Research to prepare and develop, and the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to certify and adopt, guidelines for the implementation of CEQA by public agencies. CEQA requires the office, at least once every 2 years, to review the adopted guidelines and to recommend proposed changes or amendments to the secretary.

This bill would make nonsubstantive changes to the requirements regarding the preparation, development, certification, and adoption of the guidelines.

This bill would exempt from the requirements of CEQA wildfire defense vegetation management projects, as defined, meeting certain requirements. Because a lead agency would be required to determine the applicability of this exemption to a project, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NOYES   Local Program: NOYES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 21080.12 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

21080.12.
 (a) For purposes of this section, a “wildfire defense vegetation management project” means a project to improve forest health and to reduce fuel loading that involves thinning of overgrown brush, of trees that are 16 inches or less in diameter at breast height or 1.37 meters above the average ground level, or of trees exhibiting signs of disease or pest infestation, by mechanical thinning, piling, pile burning, chipping, prescribed fire, cultural fire, or grazing.
(b) This division does not apply to a wildfire defense vegetation management project if both of the following are met:
(1) The project consists of a treatment area that is within 300 feet of a structure, such as a home, school, or hospital, or within 300 feet of either side of a roadway.
(2) The project occurs within an area designated by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as a high or very high fire hazard severity zone in accordance with Section 51178 of the Government Code or Section 4202.

SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.
SECTION 1.Section 21083 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:
21083.

(a)The Office of Planning and Research shall prepare and develop proposed guidelines for the implementation of this division by public agencies. The guidelines shall include objectives and criteria for the orderly evaluation of projects and the preparation of environmental impact reports and negative declarations in a manner consistent with this division.

(b)The guidelines shall specifically include criteria for public agencies to follow in determining whether or not a proposed project may have a “significant effect on the environment.” The criteria shall require a finding that a project may have a “significant effect on the environment” if one or more of the following conditions exist:

(1)A proposed project has the potential to degrade the quality of the environment, curtail the range of the environment, or to achieve short-term, to the disadvantage of long-term, environmental goals.

(2)The possible effects of a project are individually limited but cumulatively considerable. As used in this paragraph, “cumulatively considerable” means that the incremental effects of an individual project are considerable when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects, and the effects of probable future projects.

(3)The environmental effects of a project will cause substantial adverse effects on human beings, either directly or indirectly.

(c)The guidelines shall include procedures for determining the lead agency pursuant to Section 21165.

(d)The guidelines shall include criteria for public agencies to use in determining when a proposed project is of sufficient statewide, regional, or areawide environmental significance that a draft environmental impact report, a proposed negative declaration, or a proposed mitigated negative declaration shall be submitted to appropriate state agencies, through the State Clearinghouse, for review and comment prior to completion of the environmental impact report, negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration.

(e)The Office of Planning and Research shall develop and prepare the proposed guidelines as soon as possible and shall transmit them immediately to the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency. The Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency shall certify and adopt the guidelines pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, which shall become effective upon the filing of the guidelines. However, the guidelines shall not be adopted without compliance with Sections 11346.4, 11346.5, and 11346.8 of the Government Code.

(f)The Office of Planning and Research shall, at least once every two years, review the guidelines adopted pursuant to this section and shall recommend proposed changes or amendments to the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency. The Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency shall certify and adopt guidelines, and any amendments to the guidelines, at least once every two years, pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, which shall become effective upon the filing of the guidelines and amendments to the guidelines. However, guidelines may not be adopted or amended without compliance with Sections 11346.4, 11346.5, and 11346.8 of the Government Code.