The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District and Grist Creek Aggregates (which holds two Air District permits for an asphalt plant near Willits on the banks of Outlet Creek) asserted that citizens have no right under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to directly challenge a failure to consider the environmental impacts of permits issued by air districts. The Court of Appeal held unequivocally that CEQA does provide concerned citizens the right to sue.
In a second case involving the same asphalt plant, the Court of Appeals blocked the lower court’s dismissal of Friends’ case and explained why an earlier case, Lopez v. Imperial County Sheriff’s Office (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1, does not hold that “a tie vote of an administrative agency results in no action” in all circumstances. The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District’s Hearing Board had argued that its inability to reach a decision on Friends’ administrative challenge because of a tie vote of its members meant that the Hearing Board had failed to take any action that could be reviewed by a court. Friends argued that the Air District’s argument would insulate agency actions from judicial review—perhaps indefinitely—even while polluting activities continued. The Court put the Air Board’s argument to rest, clarifying that the Lopez case and other cases cited by the Hearing Board were about remedies, not access to the court. Friends will get its day in court.
Both opinions are slated for publication.