Getting Started with CEQA
A helpful guide for anyone who is just getting started learning about or implementing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) generally 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.
The laws and rules governing the CEQA process are contained in the CEQA statute (Public Resources Code Section 21000 and following), the CEQA Guidelines (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 15000 and following), published court decisions interpreting CEQA, and locally adopted CEQA procedures.
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) serves several important functions in the administration of CEQA. Please note that CEQA is enforced through litigation and not by any agency, including OPR. OPR’s role is limited to the duties listed below and OPR has no additional authority to “enforce” CEQA or intercede in specific projects.
Together with the Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), OPR develops the CEQA Guidelines. The CEQA Guidelines are administrative regulations interpreting the CEQA statute and published court decisions.
OPR provides technical assistance to state and local government agencies, including the development of technical advisories on selected CEQA topics.
OPR runs the State Clearinghouse (SCH) which coordinates State level review and filing of CEQA documents. Established in 1973, the SCH is responsible for managing the State’s environmental review process pursuant to CEQA. The CEQA Guidelines require lead agencies to file notices or submit many types of environmental documents to the SCH under certain circumstances. CEQA documents filed with the OPR must be submitted via CEQA Submit for publication to CEQAnet. Before contacting the SCH Office, please navigate through the SCH website as many questions can be answered there.
Due to the Covid-19 State of Emergency, certain notice and filing procedures and deadlines have been amended by executive order. Please see CEQA News for more information
Lead Agency Disputes and Assistance
In certain circumstances, OPR may designate a lead agency pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 21165 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15053.
Upon request from a lead agency, OPR can also assist the lead agency in determining which agencies are responsible agencies or have responsibility for carrying out or approving a proposed project pursuant to Public Resources Code Sections 21080.3 and 21080.4.
Lead agency disputes and requests for assistance may be submitted directly to the State Clearinghouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.