Get to Know CEQA

Credit Elizabeth Kubey

Want to save nature? Get to know CEQA

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is arguably the most powerful environmental law in California. But it is a law of the people not the powerful, and its impact requires our direct participation.

Since Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Act in 1970, CEQA has created unprecedented transparency and scrutiny over the environmental impacts of proposed projects. Its primary engine is public comment (your voice) using the CEQA process. This is how everyday citizens can ensure that government and commercial interests disclose, minimize, and help rectify each project’s effects on the environment. If decision-makers fail to do so, the public and organizations like CNPS can take legal action. So, don’t leave it to the attorneys, dive in and learn to navigate this important law.

CEQA process at a glance

Key Definitions

Initial Study is the Lead Agency’s initial analysis of impact.

The Lead Agency must have discretionary authority over a project. Responsible Agencies and Trustee Agencies also may have discretionary authority over the project but are not acting as the lead agency. Examples: A city, an air district and the University of California, respectively.

  • NOP is a formal notice that an ND, MND or EIR will be prepared.
  • ND = no potential for significant environmental impact.
  • MND = potential for impacts but can be mitigated fairly easily.
  • EIR must be prepared when there is substantial evidence in the record that supports a fair argument that significant effects may occur. Significant means substantial or potentially substantial change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project, including land, air, water, minerals, ambient noise, flora, fauna and objects of historic or aesthetic significance.

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