CEQA: the California Environmental Quality Act

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) generally requires state and local government agencies to inform decision makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, and to reduce those environmental impacts to the extent feasible. If a project subject to CEQA will not cause any adverse environmental impacts, a public agency may adopt a brief document known as a Negative Declaration.† If the project may cause adverse environmental impacts, the public agency must prepare a more detailed study called an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). An EIR contains in-depth studies of potential impacts, measures to reduce or avoid those impacts, and an analysis of alternatives to the project. A key feature of the CEQA process is the opportunity for the public to review and provide input on both Negative Declarations and EIRs. The Natural Resources Agency maintains an interactive flowchart summarizing the CEQA process.

The laws and rules governing the CEQA process are contained in the CEQA statute (Public Resources Code Section 21000 and following), the CEQA Guidelines (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 15000 and following), published court decisions interpreting CEQA, and locally adopted CEQA procedures.

The Governorís Office of Planning and Research (OPR) serves several important functions in the administration of CEQA. First, together with the Natural Resources Agency, OPR develops the CEQA Guidelines. The CEQA Guidelines are administrative regulations interpreting the CEQA statute and published court decisions. Second, OPR runs the State Clearinghouse which coordinates state level review of CEQA documents. Third, in certain circumstances, OPR may designate a lead agency. Finally, OPR provides technical assistance to state and local government agencies, including the development of technical advisories on selected CEQA topics.

Additional information regarding the CEQA statute, the CEQA Guidelines, published court decisions involving CEQA, OPRís technical advisories, and updates on addressing greenhouse gas emissions in CEQA documents can be found by following the links below.

CEQA Statute and CEQA Guidelines
The Natural Resources Agency, together with the California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES), maintains updated links to the CEQA statute (contained in Public Resources Code Sections 21000 and following) and the CEQA Guidelines (contained in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Sections 15000 and following). The Natural Resources Agency also provides a link to a searchable format copy of the statute and CEQA Guidelines provided by the Association of Environmental Professionals.

Published CEQA Cases
The Natural Resources Agency, together with the CERES, has collected major published court decisions interpreting CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines dating from 1972 to the present.

OPR Technical Advisories
OPR develops technical advisories from time to time on issues that broadly affect the practice of CEQA and land use planning.

Addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in CEQA Documents
CEQA practice as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change has advanced significantly in recent years. OPR has developed amendments to the CEQA Guidelines, a Technical Advisory and other guidance addressing CEQAís requirements for analyzing and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Infill Streamlining (SB 226)
The Governorís Office of Planning and Research is pleased to solicit your input on proposed additions to the CEQA Guidelines developed pursuant to SB 226 (Simitian, 2011). The proposal sets forth a streamlined CEQA review process for infill projects and contains performance standards that will determine an infill projectís eligibility for streamlined review. Comments on the proposal are requested by February 24, 2012. Key documents in this update package are available here.

2014 CEQA Guidelines Update Documents Review

The Governorís Office of Planning and Research is pleased to invite your review of two documents related to the 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update. The first document is a list of possible topics to be addressed in the 2014 CEQA Guidelines Update. This list of topics was developed in response to suggestions received during the summer of 2013. We invite you to review this list and let us know whether we missed any important topics, and, if you have not already done so, to provide us with specific suggested language addressing the topics on this list. You can find this list on OPRís website here. The second document is a preliminary evaluation of possible metrics to replace ďlevel of serviceĒ in the analysis of transportation impacts under CEQA. We invite your input into the options we have identified and to let us know if there is something else we should consider. You can find this preliminary evaluation on OPRís website here. Please submit all comments by February 14, 2014, to CEQA.Guidelines@ceres.ca.gov.