Saturday, August 5, 2006
At least some courts are willing to give "hard law" that requires ecological sustainability teeth. In City of Marina v. Board of Trustee of California State University, the California Supreme Court held that the state university trustees' duty under the California Environmental Quality
Act (CEQA) to mitigate the offsite environmental effects of a major
campus expansion was violated when the university planned to expand a small campus
on a former Army base into a major institution, but refused to mitigate off-campus impacts on drainage, water supply,
traffic, wastewater management, and fire protection and refused to share the cost of certain infrastructure
improvements proposed by the base's new civilian governing authority.
The court held that the mitigation requirement was not rendered infeasible by any state
constitutional or statutory restrictions on the trustees' funding of
such mitigation measures. It reasoned that the cost-sharing measures
proposed by the authority were not rendered infeasible by state
constitutional provisions prohibiting property taxation of state-owned
property and gifts of public funds to public agencies, nor were they
rendered infeasible by any uncertainty in the authority's ability to
obtain the necessary funding. The court further held that off-campus
mitigation was not exclusively the responsibility of the governing authority, but
was properly shared by the trustees. Finally, given the
feasibility of the proposed shared mitigation measures, the court held
that overriding circumstances did not justify the trustees'
certification of the EIR and approval of the proposed project. The court therefore held that the trustee's certification of the environmental
impact report (EIR), despite the remaining
unmitigated effects, was an abuse of discretion.
Westlaw link: City Of Marina v. Board Of Trustees Of The California State University, (Cal.)