Adopted in 1970, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq) 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. Subsequently, the CEQA Guidelines (14 CCR 15000, et. seq.) were promulgated to facilitate the process of evaluating project impacts and CEQA determinations by lead agencies across the state of California. The CEQA Guidelines incorporate and interpret both the statutory mandates of CEQA and the principles advanced by judicial decisions and new statutes.
The CEQA guidelines are immensely important to California businesses and public agencies, as these regulations affect every sector of the California economy and thousands of "projects" within the state. A "project" is generally defined to include a vast array of private and public sector actions, including, commercial constructions, industrial facility expansions, modifications to a power plant, highways and other public works, utility projects, residential developments and many others. Updating the CEQA Guidelines is a multi-year process with the last comprehensive update conducted in the late-1990s. The California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the California Natural Resource Agency (CNRA) seek to make the environmental review process more efficient and meaningful, as well as to conform to statutory changes and case law. Started in early 2011, OPR and CNRA released a preliminary discussion draft in 2015. The CEQA Guidelines proposed changes include the following key elements:
- Including thresholds to determine "significant" impacts and CEQA applicability;
- Updating the requirements to be consistent with recent case law;
- Adding energy and water supply impact analyses;
- Updating the CEQA Checklist to remove redundant questions, consolidate related topics and include new key questions; and
- Clarifying CEQA tiering process.
OPR is currently evaluating 2015 public comments in light of update objectives, underlying statute and case law. Once OPR completes a final draft, the CNRA will conduct a formal rulemaking process in accordance with the California Administrative Procedure Act. Additional public review is anticipated in 2016. Click here to review the proposed CEQA Guidelines changes and here to sign up to receive future notices about these updates. For more information on the CEQA Guidelines Update and other CEQA requirements, please contact Valerie Rosenkrantz with Trinity's California operations.