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Environmental Law

Upholding California’s commitment to safeguarding its environment has become more difficult in recent years. A growing population, combined with budget cuts to public regulatory oversight agencies, has meant lax enforcement of environmental laws on the books.  This has lead citizens to file lawsuits in order to enforce the air quality laws intended to keep their cities and neighborhoods safe. Landfills, in particular, are a major source of particulate matter air pollution in the Bay Area, including locations in Novato, Suisin City, Milpitas, Colma, Fremont, Petaluma, and Altamont.

The Evans Law Firm Has Experience Handling California Environmental Law Cases 

The Evans Law Firm handles cases involving violations of environmental law. The Evans Law Firm recently filed a class action against Republic Services Inc., operators of Newby Island Resource Recovery Park, a landfill in Milpitas, California, alleging negligence and nuisance in the operation of this landfill, and seeking damages for all persons residing within a two-mile radius, encompassing over 10,000 homes and over 30,000 residents.

Despite numerous complaints to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District regarding noxious odors from this facility, Republic Services Inc. continues to expand its operations at Newby Island. The suit alleges that Republic recklessly and willfully failed to take adequate safety measures to protect the nearby public from the noxious odors, pollutants, and air contaminants caused by its day-to-day operations; the landfill includes facilities for the processing of solid waste, compost, construction, and demolition material, and gas-to-energy, as well as a recycler.

These pollutants invading the Plaintiffs’ property from the landfill has frequently forced nearby residents to forego the use of their yards, having to stay inside with doors and windows closed, interfering with the Plaintiffs’ ability to freely use their property. The suit alleges that the landfill constitutes a public and private nuisance and that Republic Services Inc. should be held responsible for negligence and gross negligence in the operation of their business.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Practice

California has a long and admirable history of environmentalism and was one of the first states in the country to pass environment-related legislation on a large scale. While those laws offer protection for the environment, they also place burdens on businesses owners that they do not face in other states. One of California’s primary environmental laws is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires state and local agencies to assess the environmental impact of certain real estate developments. Attorney Ingrid M. Evans at Evans Law Firm, Inc. is well-versed in CEQA. She is a California CEQA lawyer who has extensive experience advising real estate developers on its requirements.

How CEQA Works

CEQA is intended to minimize the negative environmental effects of real estate development in the state. Doing this requires that the state or local agency responsible for issuing a permit for the project (known as the “lead agency”) determine the potential environmental impact of a proposed project and require developers to disclose certain information. The lead agency must:

  1. Determine if the proposed activity is a “project” within the meaning of the law,
  2. Determine whether the project is exempt from CEQA and if it is not,
  3. Determine whether the proposed project could possibly have a significant effect on the environment through an Initial Study

At the conclusion of the Initial Study, the lead agency will issue one of three decisions: a Negative Declaration, if it finds no potential for significant environmental impact; a Mitigated Negative Declaration, if the project is altered or the applicant agrees to modifications that will lessen the potential impact; or a notice that an Environmental Impact Review must be prepared if the lead agency determines that project will have a significant effect on the environment. 

What CEQA Covers

CEQA applies to “projects,” which generally refers to real estate development and land use plans that are subject to discretionary government approval, including those for which a permit must be issued. This encompasses most real estate development in the state, but not all of it. Exceptions to CEQA coverage include:

  • Projects subject to “ministerial” actions (i.e., those that require only conformance with a fixed standard and requires little or no discretion on the part of a government official, such as a demolition permit)
  • Projects that are granted statutory exemptions by the state legislature
  • Projects that are categorically excluded from CEQA coverage

Examples of “categorical” exemptions include construction to existing facilities, reconstruction, minor alterations to land, small structures, and others.

Components of an Environmental Impact Review

If the lead agency determines that an Environmental Impact Review is required, it will investigate the following elements of the project and address them in the Environmental Impact Review:

  • Summary
  • Project description
  • Environmental setting
  • Environmental impacts
  • Mitigation measures
  • Alternatives to the proposed project
  • Cumulative impacts
  • Economic and social effects

For more information about what the lead agency will look for in its Environmental Impact Review, as well as advice for handling a negative outcome, please contact a California CEQA lawyer.

Reach Out to a California Environmental Law Attorney Today 

Air and water quality laws are designed to ensure public safety in these areas. If you believe that you are the victim of an environmental violation, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can assess the situation and explain your rights. You may be able to recover damages from the perpetrator of the violation. Contact us today for assistance with your case.  

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