What Is The California Environmental Quality Act?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires both local and state agencies in California to identify the substantial effects of their actions on the environment and, if possible, to lessen or altogether avoid those effects. CEQA was passed in 1970, shortly after the federal government implemented the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Certain activities of local and state public agencies are subject to CEQA. An agency is required to act in accordance with CEQA whenever it begins an activity that is considered to be a "project," as classified by CEQA. A project is considered to be an activity taken on by a public agency or a private activity that is subject to some discretionary approval from a government agency and the activity may directly result in a physical altering of the environment or a realistically anticipated indirect change in the environment.

The majority of proposals in California for physical development are subject to CEQA's provisions, as are many governmental decisions that do not result in immediate physical development, such as the adoption of a community or general plan. Any development project that requires discretionary approval from the government is required to undergo an environmental review, though there are certain exemptions.

Minimally, under CEQA, the basic requirements of an environmental review must analyze the project and its estimated effects on the environment. Depending on the projected effects of the project, a more extensive review may need to be conducted, called an environmental impact report (EIR). The project may not be given approval as it is submitted if any possible alternatives exist that can significantly lessen its estimated environmental impacts.

To read the official statute and the CEQA Guidelines, visit

At the Peterson Law Group, our California environmental quality act attorneys understand the complexities of the requirements of CEQA. For many years, we have helped both commercial and residential developers as well as businesses and individuals understand and comply with the requirements of CEQA. To have your questions about the impact of CEQA on your project answered, contact our lawyers at 213-236-9720.

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