UPDATE: Court Rules In Favor Of Newhall Land For Santa Clarita Valley Development
An appellate court judge found in favor of Newhall Land and Farming and the Department of Fish and Wildlife in a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity regarding environmental reports for the 20,000-plus home Newhall Ranch development in the Santa Clarita Valley.
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The decision by the three-justice panel of the California Second Appellate District unanimously overturned Judge Ann Jones’s 2012 judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, which include local environmental group SCOPE, or Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.
"The appellate decision fully vindicates the decade-long effort to secure all of the state environmental permits necessary for Newhall Ranch," said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land spokeswoman. “We had great confidence in the diligence the Department of Fish and Wildlife undertook to certify the EIR and the Court’s action today affirms that process.”
Related article: New Lawsuit Filed Against Newhall Ranch, Sanitation District To Meet
An official with Center for Biological Diversity did not immediately respond to a request for a statement.
"The appellate ruling clears the way for development plans to move forward with initial wetlands restoration and other environmental mitigation," according to a statement from Newhall Land. "In a detailed decision, the appellate panel unanimously rejected the lower court's interpretation of the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires environmental impact assessments for most large-scale developments in the state."
The court’s ruling cites the plaintiffs’ arguments, and notes several of them lack merit:
“Plaintiffs argue: the department used an impermissible illusory baseline; disclosure of existing greenhouse gas emissions does not satisfy unspecified portions of the California Environmental Quality Act; the air resources board’s business as usual (no action taken) standard does not provide a proper baseline for greenhouse gas emissions significance analysis; other significance thresholds would have avoided the use of an illusory environmental baseline; the analysis in the environmental impact report obstructs the goals of unspecified provisions of the global warming act; and the environmental impact report improperly takes credit for existing ecological regulations and legislation.
These contentions have no merit.”
The 2012 ruling by the Los Angeles Superior Court set aside the development project's 5,828-page Environmental Impact Report, as approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2010.
“The appellate court’s reversal of the trial court’s decision is validation of years of hard work on environmental documents and subsequent permits,” said Jordan Traverso, spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We always work meticulously to ensure documents and permits such as these are sound. We especially do so on a project of this magnitude.”
A call to SCOPE officials was not answered Thursday.
The environmental groups that brought forth the suit sought to halt the 20,000-plus home project slated for the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley on the grounds the environmental impact reports were not conducted properly, Newhall Land officials said.
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