CEQA requires that EIRs evaluate potentially significant energy impacts, “with particular emphasis on avoiding or reducing inefficient, wasteful, and unnecessary consumption of energy. (CEQA Guidelines, Appen. F; see also Pub. Resources Code, § 21100(b)(3).) To effect this, Appendix F to the CEQA Guidelines provides guidance to lead agencies concerning how energy consumption and conservation may be analyzed in an EIR. (See Tracy First v. City of Tracy (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 912, 930 (Tracy First).)
CEQA’s attentiveness to energy impacts was born from the energy shortages of the mid-1970s and statewide concerns over blackouts and brownouts. The requirement to mitigate such impacts was added by the same bill that also included the Warren-Alquist Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 25000 et seq.), which created the California Energy Commission to regulate the State’s electrical generation and transmission infrastructure. (Stats. 1974 ch. 276, § 1.) Early case law emphasized that the mitigation requirement was adopted “for the purpose of requiring the lead agencies to focus upon the energy problem.” (People v. County of Kern (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 761, 774.) In 2009, as the CEQA Guidelines were amended to require an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to SB 97, Appendix F was also amended to make clear that an analysis of energy impacts is mandatory. (California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 173, 209 (California Clean Energy Committee).)
The following sections discuss the requirements of Appendix F and address how EIRs must address the potential energy impacts.
CEQA Guidelines Appendix F
Appendix F identifies energy-related considerations that may warrant discussion in an EIR’s project description, environmental setting, environmental impacts, mitigation measures, and alternatives analysis sections. (CEQA Guidelines, Appen. F, § II, subds. A-E.) The areas of potential environmental impacts listed in Appendix F are quite broad, including energy use during construction, operation, maintenance, and/or removal of the project, effects on energy supplies/capacity, effects on peak and base period demands, compliance with existing energy standards, effects on energy resources, and transportation energy use. (Id., Appen. F, § II, subd. C.) Appendix F suggests that an EIR’s consideration of a project’s irreversible commitment of resources (see id., § 15126(d)) may include a discussion of how the project preempts future energy development or conservation. (Id., Appen. F, § II, subd. G.) It also clarifies that short-term gains and long-term impacts may be compared by calculating a project’s energy costs over its lifetime. (Id. Appen. F, § II, subd. H.)
An EIR for a specific project need not address considerations that are inapplicable, even if listed in Appendix F. (Id., Appen. F, § II; Tracy First, supra, 177 Cal.App.4th at p. 935].) However, a project may need to address potential energy impacts not listed in Appendix F, insofar as they are applicable. (CEQA Guidelines, Appen. F, § II; see e.g., California Clean Energy Committee, supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at p. 213 [EIR required to address renewable energy options under impact analysis although these are not referenced in Appendix F’s list of impact types].)
Energy impacts are often inevitably related to other impact areas, including air quality, GHG emissions, transportation, and utilities, and may be evaluated within an EIR’s sections on those impacts as opposed to in a standalone section. (See CEQA Guidelines, § 15126.2(b).) However, the energy impacts must still be analyzed therein – mitigation for other impact areas is not a substitute for an energy impacts analysis, even if the mitigation would have energy-saving effects. (California Clean Energy Committee, supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at p. 207, fn. 6.)
Some EIRs have relied on compliance with the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Building Code) and California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pts. 6 & 11) to support the determination that energy impacts will be less than significant. While Tracy First did not find the lead agency’s reliance on the Building Code improper (Tracy First, supra, 177 Cal.App.4th at pp. 932-934; see also San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth v. City and County of San Francisco (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 1502, 1519), more recent cases have concluded that compliance with the Building Code and CALGreen alone is insufficient to conclude that a project will not have significant energy impacts, as the standards do not address many facets of a project’s energy impacts (e.g., construction practices, operational energy use, and transportation). (California Clean Energy Committee, supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at pp. 210-212; Ukiah Citizens for Safety First v. City of Ukiah (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 256, 265.)