Juliet H. Cho

Photo of Juliet H. Cho

Juliet Cho focuses her practice on land use, environmental due diligence, entitlements, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) permit approval process, municipal law, and land use and environmental litigation. She has engaged in water projects, renewable energy projects, local government projects, and industrial and mixed use projects.

Subscribe to all posts by Juliet H. Cho

California DWR Releases Final Groundwater Basin Boundary Modifications

On October 18, 2016, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released its final modifications to California’s groundwater basin boundaries in response to the emergency regulations adopted by DWR last October.  The basin boundary changes were implemented under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to provide flexibility to local public agencies to bring their groundwater basins … Continue Reading

Construction For The California High-Speed Rail Is Chugging Right Along

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”) issued a press release with the status of its construction work for the high-speed rail project (the “Project”) at seven active sites in the Central Valley.  Many of the Project’s segments in Madera and Fresno are beginning to see development; the foundation has been established in several sections, rebar … Continue Reading

Updates to CEQA Guidelines for Transportation Impacts Analysis Under SB 743

On January 20, 2016, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) released a revised draft of thresholds for measuring transportation impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). These draft thresholds are designed to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”) pursuant to its mandate under Senate Bill 743 (Steinberg, 2013). The initial draft was released for review in August 2014. OPR’s revised draft is fundamentally similar to its initial draft. In particular, under both drafts, the focus of a project’s transportation impacts analysis under revised Guidelines would shift from analyzing the project’s potential to increase traffic delays to the project’s effects on GHG emissions by focusing on vehicle miles traveled (“VMT”). The CEQA Guidelines have always focused a project’s potential transportation impacts analysis on the project’s potential to increase traffic delays by analyzing the project’s level of service (“LOS”). … Continue Reading

California Surface Water Diverters Now Required To Report Annually To The State

Taking effect earlier this month, Senate Bill 88 was approved overwhelmingly last legislative session and signed by the Governor as another effort to combat drought and water supply shortage conditions in the State of California. Senate Bill 88 – among other things – authorized the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) to adopt … Continue Reading

High-Speed Rail Authority Issues Progress Report

The High-Speed Rail Authority (“HSRA”) issued a progress report for the High-Speed Rail Project (the “Project”) last week, describing the HSRA’s challenges and successes to date. One of the highlights of the report was the HSRA’s January groundbreaking in Fresno for the first segment of the Project’s 520-mile route. The report also discusses the progress … Continue Reading

High-Speed Rail Authority Under Fire for Disrupting San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat

On January 26, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) issued a letter to the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the “Authority”) that found that the Authority’s contractors are not in compliance with the Authority’s original environmental commitments to the USFWS in performing the preliminary work on the first segment of the high-speed rail project (the … Continue Reading

Big Developments for Oil and Gas Operators Utilizing Well Stimulation Treatments

Today saw two significant developments for oil and gas operators utilizing well stimulation treatments in California. Pursuant to SB 4, the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources released a statewide programmatic Draft Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) analyzing the potential environmental impacts associated with well stimulation treatments, including hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”). … Continue Reading

Public Works Board Moving Forward with Condemnations as High Speed Rail Project Breaks Ground

As the High Speed Rail Authority (“Authority”) prepares to begin construction this week of the first segment of the High Speed Rail Project (the “Project”), the State Public Works Board is concurrently scrambling to consider resolutions of necessity to acquire property for the first segment within Fresno and Madera counties.  Because of the recent litigation … Continue Reading

New Water Reporting Requirements for Oil and Gas Operators

A new oil and gas reporting bill, Senate Bill 1281, sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley, was signed by Governor Brown on September 25, 2014.  The California Department of Conservation – Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) issued a Notice to Operators containing important information on the new law’s reporting mandates on December … Continue Reading

High Speed Rail Moves Forward Without CEQA Review

The Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) issued a declaratory order in a 2-1 vote last Friday, finding that the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) is categorically preempted by federal law, as it relates to the Fresno to Bakersfield segment of the California High-Speed Rail Project (“HSR Project”). Section 10501(b) of Title 49 of the United States Code provides that remedies with respect to rail transportation are exclusive and preempt remedies provided under State or Federal law. The STB has previously ruled that states or localities are precluded from intruding into matters directly regulated by the STB, in particular when the state or local action would have the effect of foreclosing or unduly restricting the rail carrier’s ability to conduct its operations or otherwise unreasonably burden interstate commerce. Under this section, the STB could not overlook the fact that CEQA, as a state pre-clearance requirement, could ultimately deny or significantly delay the High-Speed Rail Authority’s (the “Authority”) right to construct a railroad line. This would directly defy the STB’s exclusive jurisdiction over a project that it regulates. Even if it could be argued that the Authority created an implied agreement by voluntarily beginning the CEQA process, the STB concluded that any such agreement would unreasonably interfere with interstate commerce because it would prevent the Authority from exercising its authority to construct the rail line, which it had been previously authorized to do by the STB.… Continue Reading

High-Speed Rail Authority May Use Bond Funds – Supreme Court Rules

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”) is gaining more steam in keeping the High-Speed Rail Project (the “Project”) on track.  Today, the California Supreme Court issued a decision declining to review an appellate ruling against the CHSRA. In July of this year, the Third District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision ruling that … Continue Reading

Updated Status of Oil and Gas-related Bills in California’s Legislature

The end of the 2013-2014 legislative session is coming to a close.  Below are key deadlines for the Legislature and Governor: August 15 was the last day for fiscal committees to meet and report bills to the Floor. August 18-31 Floor Session only – no committees, other than conference committees and Rules committee, may meet … Continue Reading

Full Steam Ahead for Eminent Domain Actions after High Speed Rail Authority Negotiations End in Impasse

The State Public Works Board (the “Board”) adopted four Resolutions of Necessity approving the High-Speed Rail Authority’s (the “Authority”) use of eminent domain for public necessity to acquire four parcels in Fresno and Madera County for the Initial Operating Segment of the High-Speed Rail Project (the “Project”).  (Click HERE for map of Initial Operating Segment.)  … Continue Reading

SB 1281 (Pavley): Oil & Gas Production; Water Use Reporting

SB-1281 was amended in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on August 4, 2014.  A scheduled hearing on August 6 was postponed and held on suspense under Joint Rule 62(a).  As of this writing, a hearing has not yet been rescheduled.  The following provides a snapshot of the proposed text of SB-1281: Requires the use, or … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Confirms CEQA Exemption for Voter-Sponsored Initiatives

In Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, No. S207173 (Supreme Court, Aug. 7, 2014), the California Supreme Court ruled that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not apply when a lead agency receives a voter initiative petition that qualifies under the Elections Code and the lead agency chooses to adopt the … Continue Reading

California High Speed Rail Dodges Legal Bullet

In Town of Atherton v. CA High Speed Rail Authority, No. C070877 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d Dist., July 24, 2014), the Third Appellate District upheld the High-Speed Rail Authority’s (HSRA) Program Environmental Impact Report/ Program Environmental Impact Statement (PEIR/PEIS) for the Bay Area to San Joaquin Valley segment of California’s High Speed Rail system (the … Continue Reading

Ground Control to Major Tom: Appeals Court Shuts Down CEQA Challenge to San Jose Airport Master Plan

In Citizens Against Airport Pollution v. City of San Jose, No. H038781 (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist., June 6, 2014), Citizens Against Airport Pollution (“CAAP”) appealed the trial court’s ruling that the City of San Jose’s (“City”) approval of the eighth addendum to the 1997 Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the Airport Master Plan did not … Continue Reading

California Legislature Prepared to Approve Cap-and-Trade Funds for High Speed Rail Project

The Sacramento Bee has reported that the Legislature’s budget proposal for the high-speed rail project has been finalized.  Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have agreed to use 25 percent of future cap-and-trade funds, totaling $250 million, to continue construction of the $68 billion California High-Speed Rail Project (the “Project”).  The floor votes for the … Continue Reading

Will the California Supreme Court Close the Door to a CEQA Exemption the Legislature Has Refused to Close?

The California Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, No. S207173 (case submitted May 28, 2014), a case that gives the Justices the opportunity to determine whether a City Council's adoption of a voter-sponsored initiative measure, without submitting that measure to a popular vote, was a discretionary act that required CEQA review prior to approval. The Court of Appeal held that the City Council's act was subject to CEQA and that the City Council should have conducted environmental review. (See Tuolomne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Sup. Ct. (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1006, cert. granted, No. S207173.) It is established that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not apply to a project approved by ballot initiative, where the initiative was placed on the ballot by the voters and adopted by the voters in an election. (14 Cal. Code Regs. § 15378(b); DeVita v. County of Napa (1995) 9 Cal.4th 763, 794.) In Tuolumne, however, the Appellants Wal-Mart and James Grinnell (jointly, Appellants) took a different approach in seeking to expand an existing Wal-Mart store to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the City of Sonora. The Appellants submitted a petition supported by the signatures of more than 20 percent of the City of Sonora's 2,489 registered voters to expand the Wal-Mart. The City Council then chose not to submit the measure to an election, and instead, adopted the initiative as an ordinance on its own authority under California Elections Code section 9214(a). Although an EIR was prepared in advance, it was never certified by the City Council. Under California Elections Code section 9214, when a project applicant submits a voter-sponsored initiative petition to the legislative body of a public agency, signed by at least 15 percent of registered voters, with a request that the ordinance be immediately submitted to a special vote, that body must either: (a) adopt the ordinance, without alteration; (b) immediately order a special election and place the measure on the ballot for popular vote; or (c) order a report pursuant to Elections Code section 9212, which allows for abbreviated environmental review. The Justices seemed particularly interested in understanding the legislative policy behind the Elections Code's apparent conflict with CEQA and closely questioned the parties at the hearing packed with interested parties.… Continue Reading

High-Speed Rail Fresno to Bakersfield Route Approved

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s (the “Authority”) Board of Directors unanimously voted on Wednesday to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the Fresno to Bakersfield alignment of the high-speed rail project (the “Project”) and approve the selected alignment.  Click HERE for a map of the approved alignment.  The Federal Railroad Administration … Continue Reading

No Bull: Santa Cruz County Rodeo Qualifies for CEQA Exemption

In Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. State of California ex rel. 14th District Agricultural Association, et al. (3rd App. Dist., March 26, 2014), the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to exempt a three-day rodeo from California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) review under the Class 23 categorical exemption[1] because the rodeo would be held … Continue Reading

California High Speed Rail Authority Gains New Approvals to Move Project Forward: Eminent Domain Proceedings Commenced on Eight Additional Parcels in Fresno County

Despite recent obstacles, the California High Speed Rail Authority (the “Authority”) remains steadfast in its determination to complete the high-speed rail project (the “Project”), bolstered by recent approvals from various state agencies. First, the Authority received the green light last Friday from the State Public Works Board to begin eminent domain proceedings against eight properties … Continue Reading

High Speed Rail Decision on Track for Review at Court of Appeal

Last Friday, Governor Brown’s administration (the “Petitioners”) filed a petition for extraordinary writ of mandate and application for temporary stay with the California Supreme Court, challenging Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney’s decision last November to halt construction of the high-speed rail project.  On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court declined to consider the petition and instead transferred … Continue Reading
LexBlog