Jul 30, 2014

Hearing Postponed For City's Suit on Quarry EIR

A new date of Nov. 14 was set to hear the case in Riverside.

Hearing Postponed For City's Suit on Quarry EIR

A new date has been set to hear a motion for a ruling regarding Riverside County's right to approve an Environmental Impact Report for a strip-mining project south of Temecula after the county Board of Supervisors rejected the project.

The city of Temecula has been joined in the suit by De Luz 2000, a nonprofit group which has members of Save Our Southwest Hills, the group that lobbied vigorously for the denial of the Liberty Quarry project.

Also joining the suit is the Elsinore-Murrieta-Anza Resource Conservation District.

The project—planned for a 414-acre site just south of Temecula—was rejected by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, a point which city officials believe makes the certification invalid.

The county has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the city and its co-plaintiffs; a judge ruled it is too soon to dismiss any suits until the cases are heard for both sides.

City officials contend that once the Board of Supervisors rejected the proposal to build a large quarry on the outskirts of town, the EIR for that project should not have been certified.

Granite Construction Company, which proposed the quarry, has since reduced the scope of its proposal in the hope of having some sort of mining project approved.

"This Motion for Judgment relates to the City’s first cause of action in the lawsuit, which alleges that the County erred in an attempt to certify the EIR after they denied the Project," City Attorney Peter Thorson wrote.

"Specifically, the City argues that CEQA does not apply to disapproved projects and thus the County lacked the discretionary authority to certify the EIR."

However, county counsel and attorneys for Granite have filed a demurrer with the court that states the city's facts and current position are wrong.

According to documents filed with the court, the county first approved the EIR, then rejected the project.

The demurrer also contends that even if the city claims that rejection of the project nullified the EIR, that claim is also incorrect.

An agency can approve or reject at EIR independent of its decision whether to move forward with a project, attorneys state, citing precedents.

Under the law, attorneys contend, the courts would not have jurisdiction over a project that has not been approved—when moving forward with the project entails basing it on the EIR in question, papers state.

California Environmental Quality Act guidelines would not be triggered simply by the preparation of an environmental study, court papers state, but rather, the attempt to use that study to begin a project.

A decision by the court at this point would be "purely advisory," the county contends.

The city has filed a second lawsuit, this one asking the court for an injunction against the county's fast-track ordinances; the city does not want the amended Liberty Quarry proposal to be accepted by the county without public hearings.

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