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Environmental Assessment. 1969: National Environmental Policy Act [PL 91-190, 42 USC 4321 et seq.] 1970: California Environmental Quality Act of (Public Resources Code 21000 et seq.). Adapted from a presentation presented by Denise O‘Connor at Caltrans for CE 190. Contents and Purpose.

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Environmental assessment
Environmental Assessment

1969: National Environmental Policy Act [PL 91-190, 42 USC 4321 et seq.]

1970: California Environmental Quality Act of (Public Resources Code 21000 et seq.)

Adapted from a presentation presented by

Denise O‘Connor at Caltrans for CE 190

Contents and purpose
Contents and Purpose

  • Requirement for public agencies to provide:

    • NEPA: Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

    • CEQA: Environmental Impact Report

  • Purpose: To inform decision makers and public by fully disclosing impacts to the environment of proposed projects

    • Does not regulate (other laws do that)

Ceqa basics
CEQA Basics

  • California Environmental Quality Act of 1970 (Public Resources Code 21000 et seq.)

    • written and amended by Legislature

  • CEQA Guidelines (CCR 15000 et seq.)

    • regulations written and amended by Resources Agency periodically to reflect statutory amendments

    • Comprehensive revision adopted Oct 26, 1998


  • Identify the significant environmental effects of projects or actions by public agencies, and either:

    • Avoid those effects, when feasible, or

    • Mitigate those effects, when feasible (CEQA).

      • NEPA does not require mitigation

Environmental assessment

From the State Clearinghouse Handbook

CEQA Process

See separate handout for better clarity.


What is a “Project”?

"Project" means an activity which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment, and which is any of the following:


  • An activity directly undertaken by any public agency.

  • An activity undertaken by a person which is supported, in whole or in part, through contracts, grants, subsidies, loans, or other forms of assistance from one or more public agencies.

  • An activity that involves the issuance to a person of a lease, permit, license, certificate, or other entitlement for use by one or more public agencies. (PRC 21065)

Ceqa basics1
CEQA Basics

“Projects” require:

  • Discretionary approval that requires the exercise of judgment or deliberation on part of lead agency

  • Ministerial actions require little or no judgment by a public official and are not “projects”


Statutory exemption

  • Specifically exempt by a law

  • Examples:

    • Emergency repairs to maintain service[21080(b)(2)]

    • Repairs of damage by disasters [21080(b)(3)]

    • Seismic retrofit projects [21080(b)(4)]

    • Most passenger rail projects [21080(b)(10)]


Categorical exemption

  • Examples:

    • Existing facilities

    • Replacement/ reconstruction

    • Minor alterations to land

    • Small structures

Initial study
Initial Study

If project is not exempt, Public Agency informally consults with other agencies to explore possible effects

Prepares Initial Study to:

  • identify environmental impacts and

  • determine if they are significant.

  • Environmental Checklist (lab exercise)

Environmental assessment



Existing Setting

Environmental assessment


Environmental assessment


I can’t breathe!!


Cumulative impacts
Cumulative Impacts

Implementation of successive projects of the same type in the same place, over time may lead to cumulative significant impacts.

  • Examples:

    • Road system

    • Housing development

Environmental assessment


Loss of Farmland

Environmental assessment


Loss of Habitat


  • Lead Agency (CEQA Guidelines Section 15367) — the public agency that has the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project.


  • Responsible Agency(CEQA Guidelines Section 15381) — a public agency that proposes to carry out or approve a project, for which a Lead Agency is preparing an EIR or Negative Declaration.

    • For purposes of CEQA, the term “Responsible Agency” includes all public agencies other than the Lead Agency that have discretionary approval power over the project.

Results of initial study
Results of Initial Study

  • No significant environmental effects - Negative Declaration

  • Significant effects reduced below level of significance by mitigation incorporated into project before public review period- Mitigated Negative Declaration

  • Significant effects that cannot be mitigated - Environmental Impact Report

Eir process
EIR Process

  • Notice of Preparation to Responsible Agencies

  • Consultation with Responsible Agencies

  • Draft EIR

  • Notice of Completion & Public Notice of Availability of Draft EIR

Eir process1
EIR Process

  • Circulation of Draft EIR for public review (30 - 60 days normally)

  • May hold public hearing and/or meetings

  • Prepare Final EIR including responses to comments received by Responsible agencies and public


Final EIR must make a “finding” on each significant environmental effect

Possible findings:

  • Changes have been incorporated in the project to avoid or substantially lessen the identified significant environmental effect

  • The changes are within the jurisdiction of another agency and the changes have been or should be adopted by that other agency

  • Specific considerations which make infeasible the mitigation measures or alternative identified in the final EIR


Laws guide agency actions

  • Examples: Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

    If laws are not violated, decision makers may make environmentally damaging decisions

    (CEQA requires mitigation

Effects on practice of ce1
Effects on Practice of CE?

  • More time (and $$) needed to accomplish a project

  • More involvement by public and public agencies

  • Better projects

    • More comprehensive analysis

    • Environmental “dogs” are weeded out early