CEQA FAQ

As an aid to Lead Agencies and others involved in complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this page contains answers to common questions about implementing the requirements of CEQA. In most instances, the source for this information in CEQA or the State CEQA Guidelines is provided so that users know where to find additional information related to each question or answer.

Not all requirements for compliance with CEQA lend themselves to a simple summarization. For answers to complex questions or guidance on how to navigate difficult issues, advice should be sought from experienced practitioners or legal counsel.

Disclaimer: The information on this page summarizes various requirements of CEQA, but does not contain all potentially relevant information on these topics nor is it intended to be comprehensive. For more complete information about complying with CEQA, the user should consult the text of CEQA contained in Public Resources Code sections 2100021189 and the State CEQA Guidelines in the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 6, Chapter 3, Sections 1500015387.

What is a CEQA Lead Agency?

A Lead Agency is a public agency that has the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project. The Lead Agency is responsible for determining whether its approvals are subject to CEQA environmental review and, if so, determining whether a Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration, or EIR needs to be prepared. The Lead Agency is responsible for preparation of the required Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration, or EIR.

What is a CEQA Responsible Agency?

A Responsible Agency is a State or local agency other than the Lead Agency that needs to issue a discretionary approval in order for a project to be implemented.

What is a CEQA Trustee Agency?

A Trustee Agency is a State agency with jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by a project. For example, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is a Trustee Agency if a project affects wildlife.

What are Statutory Exemptions?

Statutory exemptions are exemptions from CEQA review granted by the California Legislature. Some exemptions are complete exemptions from CEQA and others apply to only part of CEQA’s requirements. Statutory exemptions are described in Sections 15260 – 15285 of the State CEQA Guidelines.

What are Categorical Exemptions?

Categorical exemptions identify specific classes of projects that are exempt from review under CEQA based on a finding by the Secretary of Resources that these classes of projects do not have a significant effect on the environment. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15354)

There are 33 classes of categorical exemptions that are described in Sections 15300 – 15332 of the State CEQA Guidelines.

Projects that fall into one of these exempt classes are not required to undergo CEQA review in most circumstances (exceptions are described in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2). When a public agency determines that a project is exempt from CEQA and decides to approve or carry out the project, the agency may (optional) file a Notice of Exemption after approval of the project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15062)

What is the process for determining if an exemption applies to a project?

After a Lead Agency has determined that an activity qualifies as a project under CEQA, the Lead Agency reviews the project to determine if any exemption applies to the project. A project is exempt from CEQA if it:

  • Is exempt by statute,
  • Is exempt pursuant to a categorical exemption and application of that exemption is not barred by one of the exceptions in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2,
  • Is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects that have the potential to cause a significant impact on the environment,
  • Will be rejected to disapproved by a public agency, or
  • Is exempt pursuant to the provisions of Article 12.5 of the State CEQA Guidelines (Sections 15191 – 15196, Exemptions for Agricultural Housing, Affordable Housing, and Residential Infill Projects).

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15061)

What is the required content for a Notice of Exemption?

A Notice Exemption shall include:

  • A brief description of the project,
  • The location of the project (by street address, identification of cross streets, or a map),
  • A finding that the project is exempt from CEQA and a citation of the State CEQA Guidelines section or statute under which it is found to be exempt,
  • A brief statement of reasons to support the finding, and
  • The applicant’s name, if any.

A Notice of Exemption form is provided in Appendix E of the State CEQA Guidelines.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15062)

How is a Notice of Exemption filed?

If a State lead Agency opts to file a Notice of Exemption, it must be filed with Office of Planning and Research after the project is approved.

If a local Lead Agency opts to file a Notice of Exemption, it must be filed with the county clerk after the project is approved. If the project spans multiple counties, the Notice must be filed with the clerk of each county. The county clerk’s office may require payment of a filing fee for the notice.

Public agencies are encouraged to also post Notices of Exemption on the Internet.

A project applicant may also file a Notice of Exemption subject to the rules set forth in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15062(c)(4).

Filing a Notice of Exemption starts a 35-day statute of limitations period on legal challenges to the determination that a project is exempt from CEQA. If such a notice is not filed, the legal challenge period is 180 days.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15062)

What are the exceptions to the application of Categorical Exemptions?

If a project falls within categorical exemption Classes 3, 4, 5, 6, or 11, the exemption may not be applicable if the project is located in a particularly sensitive location. The categorical exemptions are not applicable if the project may impact an environmental resource of hazardous or critical concern that has been designated, precisely mapped, and officially adopted by law by federal, State, or local agencies.

Exemptions for Classes 3, 4, 5, 6, or 11 may not be applied when the cumulative impact of successive projects of the same type in the same place is significant over time.

A categorical exemption cannot be used for an activity that has a reasonable possibility of resulting in a significant impact on the environment due to unusual circumstances.

A categorical exemption cannot be used for a project that may result in damage to scenic resources within a highway officially designated as a State scenic highway. This exception does not apply to improvements required as mitigation adopted as a condition of approval in a MND or EIR.

A categorical exemption cannot be used for a project located at a hazardous waste site included on any list compiled pursuant to Government Code Section 65962.5.

A categorical exemption cannot be used for a project that may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15300.2)

What is the required content of a Negative Declaration?

A Negative Declaration (ND) is a written statement by the Lead Agency briefly describing the reasons why a proposed project, that is not exempt from CEQA, will not have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore, does not require the preparation of an EIR. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15371)

What is the required content of a Mitigated Negative Declaration?

A Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is a ND prepared for a project when the initial study has identified potentially significant effects on the environment, but (1) revisions in the project plans or proposals made by, or agreed to by, the applicant before the proposed MND and initial study are released for public review would avoid the effects or mitigate the effects to a point where clearly no significant effect on the environment would occur, and (2) there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole of the record before the Lead Agency that the project, as revised, may have a significant effect on the environment.

A MND circulated for public review must include:

  • A brief description of the project,
  • Location of the project,
  • Name of the project proponent,
  • A proposed finding that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment, and
  • An attached copy of the initial study documenting reasons to support the finding.

(State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15369.5 and 15071)

What are the required steps in the Negative Declaration process?

For a full description of the required steps in preparing and adopting a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration, see sections 15070 through 15075 of the State CEQA Guidelines. A summary of the steps in the ND or MND process is presented below.

  • Prepare an Initial Study for the proposed project.
  • If the Initial Study concludes that the proposed project would not result in any significant impact, prepare a ND or MND.
  • Prepare and distribute/post a Notice of Intent to Adopt a ND or MND. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15072)
  • Accept comments on the proposed ND or MND for not less than 20 days or not less than 30 days if submitted to the State Clearinghouse. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15073)
  • Lead Agency decision makers consider comments received on the proposed ND or MND and decide whether to adopt the ND or MND prior to taking action to approve the project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15074(b))
  • If an MND is adopted and the project is approved, the Lead Agency decision makers also adopt a mitigation monitoring or reporting program.
  • The Lead Agency pays the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CEQA fee and files a Notice of Determination within 5 days of project approval.

What is the required public review period for a proposed ND or MND?

Agencies and the public must be allowed at least 20 days to review and comment on a proposed ND or MND. When the Lead Agency is a State agency, the public review period shall be as long as the review period established by the State Clearinghouse, which is normally 30 days. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15073 and PRC § 21091)

Is it necessary to respond to comments received on a proposed ND or MND?

No, but when considering whether to approve a project, the Lead Agency must consider the comments received during its consultation and review periods for the ND or MND. (Public Resources Code § 21091(d)(1) and State CEQA Guidelines § 15074(b))

While preparation of responses to comments on a proposed MD or MND is not required, the Lead Agency must notify in writing any public agency that commented on a proposed ND or MND of any public hearing for the project for which the document was prepared. (Public Resources Code § 21092.5 and State CEQA Guidelines § 15073(e))

Do CEQA findings need to be adopted for a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration?

No.

Is adoption of a mitigation monitoring or reporting program required for a Mitigated Negative Declaration?

Yes. When adopting a MND, the Lead Agency must also adopt a program for reporting on or monitoring the changes that it has either required in the project or made a condition of approval to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects. (Public Resources Code § 21083 and State CEQA Guidelines § 15074(d))

What is a Notice of Intent to Adopt a ND or MND?

The Notice of Intent to Adopt a ND or MND is an announcement by the Lead Agency indicating that it has prepared an Initial Study and determined, in light of the whole record, that a proposed project would not result in a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, the Lead Agency intends to adopt a ND or MND if decision makers approve the proposed project. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15070 and 15072)

Who needs to receive the Notice of Intent to adopt a ND or MND?

A Notice of Intent (NOI) to adopt a ND or MND is required to be posted for 20 days in the office of the county clerk of each county in which the project is located. The NOI must be posted for 30 days if the ND or MND has been sent to the State Clearinghouse. (Public Resources Code § 21092)

Note: The county clerk’s office may require payment of a filing fee for the NOI.

A notice of availability of the proposed ND or MND must be mailed to any person who has filed a written request for notification with the Lead Agency. (Public Resources Code § 21092)

The proposed ND or MND and its initial study must be attached to the NOI and sent to every Responsible and Trustee Agency concerned with the project and every other public agency with jurisdiction by law over resources affected by the project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15073)

For a project that would have statewide, regional, or area-wide significance, the Lead Agency is required to consult with the regional transportation planning agency and public agencies that have transportation facilities that could be affected by the project. (Public Resources Code § 21092.4)

In what circumstances is preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required?

Preparation of an EIR is required when a Lead Agency determines that a proposed project would have one or more significant impacts on the environment based on a preliminary review of the project (State CEQA Guidelines § 15060) or completion of an Initial Study (State CEQA Guidelines § 15063). The decision to prepare an EIR is based on substantial evidence and in light of the whole of the record before the Lead Agency (State CEQA Guidelines § 15064).

What is the required content for a Draft EIR?

The required contents of a Draft EIR are described in sections 15120 through 15131 of the State CEQA Guidelines. An overview of the contents of a Draft EIR is presented below.

  • Table of contents or index. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15122)
  • Summary, including:
    • Identification of each significant impact along with the proposed mitigation measures and/or alternatives that would reduce or avoid each impact.
    • Discussion of the areas of controversy known to the Lead Agency, including issues raised by agencies and the public.
    • Identification of the issues to be resolved, including the choice among alternatives and how to mitigate significant impacts. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15123)
  • Project description, including:
    • Precise location and boundaries of the proposed project on a detailed map.
    • Location of the proposed project on a regional map.
    • A statement of project objectives, including the underlying project purpose.
    • A general description of the project characteristics.
    • A brief statement of the intended uses of the EIR to the extend known to the Lead Agency, including a list of other agencies that are expected to use the EIR in decision making, a list of permits and approvals required to implement the project, and a list of related environmental review and consultation requirements required by laws, regulations, or policies. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15124)
  • Environmental setting, consisting of a description of the physical environmental conditions in the project vicinity as they exist at the time the NOP is published. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15125)
  • Discussion of environmental impacts, including:
    • Significant environmental effects of the project. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15126 and 15126.25(a))
    • Significant environmental effects that cannot be avoided if the project is implemented. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15126 and 15126.25(b))
    • Significant irreversible environmental changes that would occur if the project is implemented. (Only required for EIRs associated with the adoption or amendment of a plan, policy, or ordinance; adoption of determinations made by a Local Agency Formation Commission; or projects that require preparation of an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act). (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15126, 15126.2(c), and 15126.4)
    • Growth-inducing impacts of the project. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15126 and 15126.2(d))
  • Mitigation measures to minimize significant impacts. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15126 and 15127)
  • Discussion of alternatives, including:
    • Evaluation, analysis, and comparison of a reasonable range of alternatives that would attain most of the basic project objectives and would avoid or reduce any of the significant impacts of the project. Only feasible alternatives should be considered.
    • Evaluation and analysis of the “no project” alternative, which describes impacts that are reasonably expected to occur in the foreseeable future if the proposed project is not approved.
    • Identification of the environmentally superior alternative.
    • Identification of alternatives that were considered but rejected by the Lead Agency and the reasons for their elimination. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15126 and 15126.6)
  • Discussion of cumulative impacts. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15130)
  • Effects not found to be significant. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15128)
  • Organizations and persons consulted in preparing the Draft EIR. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15129)

While the list above summarizes the required content of a Draft EIR, it does not necessarily reflect the typical organization of a Draft EIR. EIRs may be organized in differing ways as long as they include all required content.

Are significance thresholds needed to determine the significance of project impacts?

The use of thresholds of significance are not required, but Lead Agencies are encouraged to develop thresholds or other criteria for use in determining the significance of impacts (State CEQA Guidelines § 15064.7).

What are the required steps in the EIR process?

For a full description of the required steps in preparing and certifying an EIR, see sections 15080 through 15097 of the State CEQA Guidelines. A summary of the steps in the EIR process is presented below.

  • Prepare and distribute a Notice of Preparation. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15082)
  • Solicit comments on the scope of the EIR for not less than 30 days and conduct a scoping meeting. (State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15082 and 15083)
  • Prepare and publish a Draft EIR.
    • File a Notice of Completion with the State Clearinghouse and publish/distribute a Notice of Availability for the Draft EIR. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15085)
    • Accept comments on the Draft EIR for not less than 45 days. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15087)
  • Prepare and publish a Final EIR.
    • The Final EIR must include responses to comments received on the Draft EIR during the public review period.
  • Provide responses to public agency comments at least 10 days prior to project approval. (PRC § 21092.5)
  • Lead Agency decision makers consider the information in the EIR and decide whether to certify the Final EIR prior to taking action to approve the project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15090)
  • At the time the project is approved, the Lead Agency decision makers adopt CEQA findings and a statement of overriding considerations (if needed).
  • If the project is approved, the Lead Agency decision makers also adopt a mitigation monitoring or reporting program.
  • The Lead Agency pays the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CEQA fee and files a Notice of Determination within 5 days of project approval. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15094 and Fish & Game Code § 711.4)
  • Lead Agency files a copy of the Final EIR with the local planning agency of any city or county where significant impacts would occur. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15095)
  • The applicant provides a copy of the Final EIR to each responsible agency. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15095)

What is a Notice of Preparation?

The NOP is a document stating that an EIR will be prepared for a particular project. It is the first step in the EIR process and needs to be prepared immediately after deciding that an EIR is required for a project.

Who needs to receive the EIR Notice of Preparation?

NOP should be sent to:

  • Office of Planning and Research (State Clearinghouse – see below),
  • Each Responsible Agency,
  • Each federal agency involved in approving or funding the project, and
  • Each Trustee Agency responsible for natural resources affected by the project.

The NOP shall be sent via certified mail or any other method of transmittal that provides it with a record that the notice was received. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15082(3))

What information needs to be included in the Notice of Preparation?

The minimum content requirements for a NOP are:

  • Description of the project
  • Location of the project indicated on an attached map
  • Salient environmental issues
  • Probable environmental effects of the project
  • A copy of the Initial Study may be sent with the notice to supply the necessary information.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15082; Public Resources Code § 21080.4)

What is a Notice of Availability?

The Notice of Availability provides public notice of the availability of a Draft EIR for public review. The Lead Agency must provide public notice of the availability of a Draft EIR at the same time as it sends a Notice of Completion to the Office of Planning and Research.

Who needs to receive the EIR Notice of Availability?

The minimum requirements for distribution and posting of the Notice of Availability include:

  • Notice must be filed for posting with the County Clerk of the county in which the project is to be located. (Public Resources Code § 21092.3 and CEQA Guidelines § 15087 (d))
  • The Notice of Availability shall be posted for a period of 30 days in the office of the county clerk in which the project will be located.
  • PRC § 21092.2 requires notice of availability of a Draft EIR to be mailed to any person who has filed a written request for notification with the Lead Agency.

In addition, the notice must follow at least one of the following procedures:

  • Be published at least one time by the public agency in a newspaper of general circulation in the area affected by the proposed project.
  • Be posted by the public agency on and off the site in the area where the project is to be located.
  • Direct mailing to the owners and occupants of property contiguous to the parcel or parcels on which the project is located. Owners of such property shall be identified from the latest equalized assessment roll.

Does the Draft EIR Notice of Availability need to be transmitted via certified mail or any other method of transmittal that provides it with a record that the notice was received?

No, but it is a good practice to verify that the notices will be sent to valid addresses and that all addresses for recipients are up to date.

What information must be included in the Draft EIR Notice of Availability?

The Notice of Availability must disclose the following:

  • A brief description of the proposed project and its location
  • The starting and ending dates for the review period during which the lead agency will receive comments. If the review period is shortened, the notice shall disclose that fact.
  • The date, time, and place of any scheduled public meetings or hearing to be held by the lead agency, when known to the lead agency at the time of notice.
  • A list of the significant environmental effects anticipated as a result of the project, to the extent which such effects are known to the lead agency at the time of notice.
  • The address where copies of the EIR and all documents referenced in the EIR will be available for public review. This location shall be readily accessible to the public during the lead agency’s normal working hours.
  • The presence of the site on any of the lists of sites enumerated under Government Code Section 65962.5 including, but not limited to, lists of hazardous waste facilities, land designated as hazardous waste property, hazardous waste disposal sites and others, and the information in the Hazardous Waste and Substances Statement required under subdivision (f) of that Section.

What is the required content for a Final EIR?

The required contents of a Final EIR are described in section 15132 of the State CEQA Guidelines. An overview of the contents of a Final EIR is presented below.

  • The Draft EIR or a revision of the Draft.
  • Comments and recommendations received on the Draft EIR, either verbatim or in summary.
  • A list of persons, organizations, and public agencies that commented on the Draft EIR.
  • The responses of the Lead Agency to significant environmental points raised in the review and consultation process.
  • Any other information added by the Lead Agency.

What type of notice is required for a Final EIR?

No specific public notice is required when a Final EIR is published, but the possible certification of a Final EIR is typically announced as part of the public hearing notice provided for the discretionary action(s) required for project approval. PRC § 21092.5 requires that written responses to the comments submitted by public agencies be provided to those agencies at least 10 days prior to certification of the Final EIR. This requirement can be satisfied by providing a copy of the Final EIR that includes the responses to public agency comments on the Draft EIR.

What does it mean to certify a Final EIR?

Certification is an action taken by Lead Agency decision makers indicating that the Final EIR has satisfied CEQA’s requirements.

When does a Final EIR get certified?

The Lead Agency must certify the Final EIR before approving the project for which the EIR was prepared. The Final EIR does not need to be certified prior to taking action to deny the project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15090)

After considering the Final EIR, the Lead Agency may decide whether or how to approve or carry out a project. A Lead Agency may approve a project with significant environmental effects based on a fully informed and publicly disclosed decision that:

  • There is no feasible way to lessen or avoid the significant effects according to the Lead Agency’s findings prepared according to State CEQA Guidelines § 15091; and
  • The specifically identified benefits of the project outweigh the benefits of reducing or avoiding such environmental impacts as described in the statement of overriding considerations required by State CEQA Guidelines § 15093.

Who must certify the Final EIR?

The Final EIR must be certified by Lead Agency decision makers before taking any action to approve the proposed project.

Does a Final EIR need to be certified at a public hearing?

No. The Lead Agency must certify the Final EIR before approving the project, but there is no requirement that certification occur during a public hearing.

Does a Final EIR need to be filed with the State Clearinghouse?

No, but it is recommended that a copy be provided to the SCH for information purposes. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15090)

Is the lead agency required to adopt the environmentally superior alternative?

No, but an explanation of the rationale for not selecting this alternative should be described in the EIR findings prepared for project approval. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15091(a))

Can a project be approved if the Final EIR indicates that it would have significant and unavoidable impacts?

Yes, but the Lead Agency Lead Agency must prepare a statement of overriding considerations stating the reasons for approving the project despite its significant and unavoidable impacts. The statement of overriding considerations reflects the ultimate balancing of competing public objectives (including environmental, legal, technical, social, and economic factors). The statement must:

  • Be in writing,
  • State specific reasons supporting agency actions based on the Final EIR or other substantial evidence in the record, and
  • Be mentioned in the Notice of Determination (NOD).

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15093)

What is a Notice of Determination?

The Notice of Determination is a brief notice filed by a public agency after it approves or decides to carry out a project that is the subject to the requirements of CEQA.

Does a Notice of Determination need to be filed for a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration?

The Notice of Determination must include:

  • Identification of the approved project, including the project title, location, and State Clearinghouse identification number (if the CEQA document was filed with the State Clearinghouse.
  • A brief description of the project.
  • The agency’s name and applicant’s name.
  • The date the agency approved the project.
  • Indication of the agency’s determination that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment.
  • A statement that a Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration, or EIR was adopted/certified pursuant to CEQA.
  • A statement indicating that mitigation measures were made a condition of approval of the project and a whether a mitigation monitoring or reporting program was adopted (for MNDs and EIRs only).
  • A statement indicating that findings were made pursuant to State CEQA Guidelines 15091 (for EIRs only).
  • A statement indicating whether a statement of overriding considerations was adopted for the project (for EIRs only).
  • The address where a copy of the Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration, or EIR may be examined.

(State CEQA Guidelines §§ 15075(b) and 15094(b))

When does the Notice of Determination need to be filed?

A local agency that approves or determines to carry out a project must file a Notice of Determination with the county clerk within five working days of the project’s approval. (Public Resources Code § 21152 and State CEQA Guidelines § 15075)

If the project requires discretionary approval from a State agency, the NOD must also be filed with the Office of Planning and Research. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15075(d))

Where does the Notice of Determination need to be posted?

The NOD must:

  • Be posted by the county clerk within 24 hours,
  • Remain posted for 30 days, and
  • Returned to the local agency with certification of its posting when the posting period is over.

(Public Resources Code § 21152 and State CEQA Guidelines § 15075)

If the project requires discretionary approval from a State agency, the NOD must also be filed with the Office of Planning and Research. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15075(d))

A State agency that approves or determines to carry out a project must file a NOD with the Office of Planning and Research. (Public Resources Code § 21108 and State CEQA Guidelines § 15075(c))

Note: The county clerk’s office may require payment of a filing fee for the NOD. The Lead Agency is required to pay an environmental filing fee to the Department of Fish and Wildlife if the ND, MND, or EIR identified any potential impacts on fish or wildlife resources. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/CEQA/Fees)

What is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CEQA fee?

Lead Agencies are required to pay an environmental filing fee to the Department of Fish and Wildlife if an EIR or Negative Declaration identified any potential impacts on fish or wildlife resources. The fee amounts for EIRs and Negative Declarations are different and the amounts change annually. Check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the current fee amount. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/CEQA/Fees)

How does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CEQA fee get paid?

If the Lead Agency is a State agency, the fee is filed with the SCH; otherwise, it is filed with the local County Clerk. The fee can be mailed to SCH directly (write checks to CA Department of Fish and Wildlife) or to the local county clerk office. Requirements for county clerk offices vary from county to county (please check with the county clerk office in which the project is taken place for specific requirements). The amount of the fee changes on an annual basis, so check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the current fee amount. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/CEQA/Fees)

Can payment of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CEQA fee be avoided?

If the Lead Agency (as defined by PRC § 21067) finds that, considering the record as a whole, a project involves no potential for adverse effect, either individually or cumulatively on fish or wildlife (as defined by § 711.2 of the Fish and Game Code), no fee is required. The Lead Agency’s findings of fact shall include the following information in order to qualify for a de minimis exemption:

  • The name and address of the project proponent.
  • A brief description of the project and its location, including county.
  • A statement that an initial study has been conducted by the Lead Agency so as to evaluate the potential for adverse environmental impact.
  • A declaration that when considering the record as a whole there is no evidence before the agency that the proposed project will have potential for an adverse effect on wildlife resources or the habitat upon which the wildlife depends.
  • A declaration that the Lead Agency has, on the basis of substantial evidence, rebutted the presumption of adverse effect contained in these regulations.

If the lead agency has determined that the project will have no effect on any fish and wildlife, it may request a No Effect Determination (NED) from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/CEQA/NED

When is a scoping meeting required?

If the Lead Agency needs to prepare an EIR for a project and the project has statewide, regional, or area-wide significance (pursuant to CEQA Guidelines § 15206), the Lead Agency shall conduct at least one scoping meeting. The Lead Agency shall provide notice of the scoping meeting to all of the following (State CEQA Guidelines § 15082):

  • Any county or city that borders on a county of city within which the project is located, unless otherwise designated annually by agreement between the lead agency and the county or city,
  • Any responsible agency,
  • Any public agency that has jurisdiction by law with respect to the project, and
  • Any organization or individual who has filed a written request for the notice.

If a scoping meeting is requested by a Responsible Agency, Trustee Agency, the Office of Planning and Research, or a project applicant, the meeting must be convened by the lead agency within 30 days of the request. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15082)

PRC § 21083.9 specifies that when requested by the Department of Transportation, a Lead Agency must call at least one scoping meeting to discuss any proposed project that may affect highways or other facilities under their jurisdiction.

Is a scoping meeting required for a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration?

No.

Do public meetings need to be conducted for a Draft EIR?

No, but some Lead Agencies choose to conduct such meetings.

Do public meetings need to be conducted for a Final EIR?

No, although Final EIRs are typically certified at public meetings.

Are public meetings required for a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration?

No, although NDs and MNDs are typically adopted at public meetings.

When is it appropriate to prepare an addendum to an EIR?

An addendum can be prepared to a previously certified Final EIR by a Lead Agency or a Responsible Agency when changes or additions are needed, but these changes or additions must not trigger conditions requiring preparation of a Subsequent EIR described in State CEQA Guidelines § 15162. Therefore, addendums are only appropriate for inclusion of minor technical changes or additions.

What type of public notice is required for an addendum to an EIR?

No public notice is required for an addendum to a previously certified Final EIR and an addendum does not need to be circulated for public review.

Can an addendum be prepared if there is no certified Final EIR?

No. Addendums can only be prepared for previously certified Final EIRs.

What is a Subsequent EIR or Negative Declaration?

It is sometimes necessary to prepare a subsequent EIR for a project after a Final EIR for the project has been certified, due to project changes, changes in circumstances, or availability of substantial new information. Similarly, it is sometimes also necessary to prepare a subsequent Negative Declaration for a project after a Negative Declaration (or MND) for that project has already been adopted. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15162)

The circumstances that would trigger the preparation of a subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration are described below.

What Triggers the Preparation of a Subsequent EIR or Negative Declaration?

If a Lead Agency needs to approve a new discretionary action or modify a previous discretionary action for a project, additional CEQA review may be necessary to update or expand upon a previously certified EIR or adopted Negative Declaration. Preparation of a subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration (or MND) is typically required when project changes or changed circumstances involve new significant environmental effects that were not identified in the previous EIR or Negative Declaration, or would result in a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects.

A subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration only needs to be prepared when the Lead Agency determines one or more of the following, based on substantial evidence in the light of the whole record:

  • Substantial changes are proposed in the project that will require major revisions of the previous EIR or negative declaration due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects.
  • Substantial changes occur with respect to the circumstances under which the project is undertaken that will require major revisions to the previous EIR or negative declaration due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects.
  • New information of substantial importance, which was not known and could not have been known with the exercise of reasonable diligence at the time the previous EIR was certified as complete or the negative declaration was adopted, shows any of the following: (1) The project will have one or more significant effects not discussed in the previous EIR or negative declaration; (2) Significant effects previously examined will be substantially more severe than shown in the previous EIR; (3) Mitigation measures or alternatives previously found not to be feasible would in fact be feasible and would substantially reduce one or more significant effects of the project, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative; or (4) Mitigation measures or alternatives which are considerably different from those analyzed in the previous EIR would substantially reduce one or more significant effects on the environment, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15162(a))

What if Changes Occur After the Lead Agency's Approvals Have Been Granted?

New information that appears after a project has been approved does not require re-opening of the approval nor additional environmental review. New information would only need to be considered if an additional discretionary approval is required for the project. If any of the conditions described in State CEQA Guidelines section 15162(a) occur (i.e. the triggers for subsequent CEQA review), then the agency that grants the next required discretionary approval for the project would need to prepare a subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration (or MND).

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15162(c))

What are the Noticing and Processing Requirements for a Subsequent EIR or Subsequent Negative Declaration?

A subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration have the same noticing and public review requirements a regular EIRs and Negative Declarations, as required under State CEQA Guidelines section 15087 or section 15072. A subsequent EIR or subsequent Negative Declaration must indicate where the previous document is available and can be reviewed.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15162(d))

What is a Supplement to an EIR?

A Lead or Responsible Agency may choose to prepare a supplement to an EIR rather than a subsequent EIR if:

  • Any of the conditions described in State CEQA Guidelines section 15162 would require the preparation of a subsequent EIR, and
  • Only minor additions or changes would be necessary to make the previous EIR adequately apply to the project in the changed situation.

(State CEQA Guidelines § 15163(a))

A supplement to an EIR only needs to contain the information necessary to make the previous EIR adequate for the revised project. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15163(b))

What are the Noticing and Processing Requirements for a Supplement to an EIR?

A supplement to an EIR has the same noticing and public review requirements as a regular EIR as described in State CEQA Guidelines section 15087. A supplement to an EIR may be circulated by itself without recirculating the previous Draft or Final EIR. (State CEQA Guidelines § 15163(c)(b))

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