Land Use and Ceqa

Updated July 17, 2018

The California Legislature enacted the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970. CEQA recognizes the importance of input from public agencies that have “jurisdiction by law” over natural resource areas and requires public agencies to consider and disclose the environmental effects of a project to the public. The Placer County Air Pollution Control District (District) was established by the California Health and Safety Code as a public agency having primary responsibility for overseeing and regulating air pollution within Placer County. As a public agency, the District takes an active part in the intergovernmental review process under CEQA. In general, the District is a commenting agency in reviewing environmental documents (for discretionary land use development projects within Placer County) which is in response to and prepared by lead agencies (cities, county, and other public agencies).

The District provides local agencies with information on how to comply with CEQA for air quality impacts, through our CEQA Review Program. Staff reviews and sometimes comments on environmental documents which provide lead agencies with valuable information and technical support related to potential air quality impacts from land use projects. As a part of the review program, the District developed a CEQA Handbook which has been designed as an advisory tool with recommended mitigation measures, emission estimation models, and step-by-step procedures for conducting a thorough air quality analysis for land use projects. The District’s CEQA Handbook can be reviewed and downloaded from the CEQA Air Quality Handbook webpage.

In addition to the District’s CEQA Handbook, the District’s Board of Directors adopted the Review of Land Use Projects under the CEQA Policy in 2016. The policy established the thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants as well as greenhouse gases  (GHG) with the review principles which serve as guidelines for the District staff when reviewing and commenting on the environmental documents prepared by lead agencies. The detailed content of the policy and associated analytical assessments for significant thresholds can be reviewed and downloaded from the CEQA Thresholds and Review Principles webpage.

Recommended CEQA Modeling Analysis Tools

Models are commonly used to calculate land use development project air emissions. During the review, various modeling tools are available to evaluate air quality impacts for a project. The District recommends the following computer models to analyze the related air quality impacts from land use projects. 

1. CalEEMod Model

The California Emissions Estimator Model (CalEEMod) is designed for governmental agencies, land use planners, and environmental professionals to quantify potential criteria pollutants and GHG emissions from a variety of land use projects. The model can estimate direct emissions from construction and operational activities as well as indirect emissions from energy use, solid waste disposal, and waste use. The District's CEQA Handbook Appendix B provides the modeling tips for using CalEEMod to analyze the project's related air quality impacts. The latest model version (2016.3.2) and user’s guide can be downloaded at

2. Roadway Construction Emission Model

The Roadway Construction Emission Model was developed by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (SMAQMD). The model is a spreadsheet-based model that is able to estimate exhaust emissions from heavy-duty construction equipment, haul trucks, and worker commute trips as well as fugitive dust from the construction of a new roadway, road widening, roadway overpass, levee or pipeline projects. The model can be downloaded from here.

3. EMFAC Model

The Emission Factors (EMFAC) model was developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to assess the mobile source emissions for each air basin, county or the whole state. It contains vehicle activities and emission factors from all types of motor vehicles operating on highways, freeways, and local roads in California. CARB has created an EMFAC Web Database which can provide a quick and easy way to access commonly used EMFAC emissions and emission factors data without having to install and run the EMFAC model. The EMFAC Web Database can be accessed from here.

4. CALINE-4 Model

The CALINE-4 model is recommended when a land use project is identified that it will have potential carbon monoxide (CO) impacts for any intersection affected by the project which already has traffic mitigation incorporated. The model is used to estimate local CO concentrations resulting from motor vehicle emissions. It was developed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and is available from here.

If the project applicant proposes a modeling analysis different than the above District's recommended models, please consult with the District staff prior to conducting the analyses. 

Mitigation Measure Recommendation

When concerns or impacts are identified, pertaining to air quality through the District’s review process, District staff will recommend on-site and off-site mitigation measures to lead agencies for consideration. The list of recommended mitigation measures can be found in the District’s CEQA Handbook Appendix C (for construction impacts)Appendix E (for operational impacts), and  Appendix F (for greenhouse has impacts). In addition to the District’s mitigation measures lists, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) also prepared a report for Qualifying Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Measures from selected strategies to provide a common platform of information and tools for identifying feasible mitigation measures for greenhouse gas emission reductions.  The District recommends on-site mitigation measures as the preferred mechanism to reduce potential air quality impacts from the proposed land use development projects.  

District Off-Site Mitigation Fee Program

The District’s Board of Directors adopted the Land Use Air Quality Mitigation Funds Policy in April 2001 with an amendment to it in December 2008. The policy established the District Off-Site Mitigation Fee Program which provides an alternative to offset the increased emissions from new land use development projects.  

The project applicant can utilize this program as an optional mitigation measure when the on-site mitigations are insufficient to offset their related air quality impacts to below the applicable thresholds. It is a voluntary measure which would be recommended by the District through the CEQA review process to the applicants and lead agencies for consideration.

The fee is calculated based on the amount of emissions above the thresholds and the cost-effectiveness factor which is a measure of the dollars provided for each ton of covered emission reductions. The District's Review of land Use Projects under CEQA Policy asserts that the offsite mitigation fee calculation is tied to the cost effectiveness limit identified by the CARB Carl Moyer Program Guidelines. On October 12, 2017, the District's Board of Directors adopted the amendment of Review of Land Use Projects under CEQA Policy to set up the District's CEQA cost-effectiveness as $18,260 per ton and be adjusted by the California Consumer Price Index (CPI), starting in 2018. The Board memo and policy amendment can be viewed from here. 

The current cost-effectiveness used for the District's off-site mitigation fee calculation is $18,790 per ton of ozone precursor emissions (ROG or NOx), effective July 2018.