As reported in a Sept. 30 press release, the Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control District received a permit application from Crystal Geyser last week for boilers the company plans to install at its beverage bottling facility just outside the Mount Shasta City limits.

Siskiyou County Counsel Brian Morris said Monday his understanding is that the company plans to submit another permit application to the APCD for a generator also slated for installation at the plant.

Crystal Geyser disclosed to the public in a press release last month that it would “move forward with the Air Pollution Control District in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report” for its bottling plant.

Judy Yee, the company’s executive vice president for marketing and business strategy, stated in an interview that the planned EIR would cover all aspects of plant operations.

Morris said he understands that Crystal Geyser wants to do a full EIR due to community interest, and he confirmed that county officials have had meetings with Crystal Geyser representatives about the matter. However, he said no decisions have yet been reached.

“From the county’s perspective, we have not yet determined whether there will be an Environmental Impact Report done with either the county or the Air Pollution Control District as lead agency, or what the scope of any such EIR might be,” he said.

He said neither the county nor the APCD would require a more extensive environmental analysis than would be required due to permit applications.

“If there is to be an environmental analysis for these permits and these are the only things that require California Environmental Quality Act review, the APCD would move forward with that on its own,” Morris reported.

It is only at the request of the applicant for a more extensive EIR that either the county or the Air Pollution Control District would consider undertaking that process as lead agency, he said.

Lead agency concerns

Concerns raised by the group We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review about whether the APCD would be an appropriate lead agency for a full EIR pointed to Section 15051 of the CEQA guidelines stating that lead agency for a project “carried out by a nongovernmental person or entity will normally be the agency with general governmental powers, such as a city or county, rather than an agency with a single or limited purpose such as an air pollution control district…”

According to an official in the California Office of Planning and Research, CEQA guidelines are part of the California Code of Regulations, but there is some interpretation involved, such as, in this instance, in determining what “normally” means. He suggested that legal counsel be consulted when trying to interpret CEQA guidelines or statutes.

He confirmed that, in general, if discretionary permits for a project are required by a city or county, that city or county is chosen as lead agency for an EIR over a single permitting agency who also has discretionary permits.

“If city or county does not have discretionary approvals for a project, the public agency that does have discretionary authority for a project would normally be the lead agency,” he stated in an email.

According to the official, if the APCD becomes the lead agency for an EIR covering the Crystal Geyser plant and its planned operations, it would be legally responsible for the following:

• Developing the CEQA document for the project;

• Ensuring the environmental impacts of the project are adequately analyzed; and,

• Ensuring that the final findings and document comply with CEQA.

If any environmental impacts to be mitigated are beyond the scope of the APCD, the agency also would be required to identify another agency or agencies to be responsible for the mitigation(s).

As lead agency, the official reported, the APCD would have to develop a Mitigation Monitory or Reporting program in accordance with CEQA Guidelines Section 15097(a) to “ensure that the mitigation measures and project revisions identified in the EIR or negative declaration are implemented…”