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CPUC Rulemaking Could Limit Local Land Use Authority and CEQA Mitigation for Telecommunications Projects

Legal Alerts

Public Agency Participation in this Proceeding is Critical

JANUARY 12, 2012

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently vacated General Order 170 and re-opened a rulemaking proceeding to determine whether and how the CPUC will conduct environmental review of certain telecommunications projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), including new telephone or telegraph lines and the repair, replacement, moderation, alteration or addition to existing lines. This rulemaking threatens to further erode the land use authority of cities, counties, and joint powers authorities throughout the State, and could severely limit or even preempt all public agency efforts to obtain mitigation through the CEQA process for the environmental impacts resulting from the construction and operation of these telecommunications projects.

The CPUC has stated that its decision to regulate the CEQA process for these telecommunications projects will preempt the discretionary review and permitting powers of all local land use jurisdictions. Further, the CPUC will determine if it will allow telecommunication providers to decide whether their own projects are exempt from public review under CEQA - potentially without even the need for CPUC concurrence.  For example, the CPUC will reconsider GO 170’s controversial exemption of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) from CEQA review.  

If your agency is concerned about the potential preemption of its regulatory authority over these telecommunications projects, then you should strongly consider participating in this CPUC rulemaking.  The CPUC’s deadlines for obtaining party status and commenting in this rulemaking will be announced shortly, and are typically very short.  For more information on the CPUC proceeding, to discuss how it may limit your agency’s ability to obtain CEQA mitigation, or to learn how you can obtain party status and submit comments, please contact Jennifer Haley, Charity Schiller, Gail Karish or your BB&K attorney.

Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.


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