New CEQA Guidelines Now in Effect
The Regulatory Action Amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Guidelines (the “Amendments”) have been approved by the Office of Administrative Law and filed by the Secretary of State. The Amendments are now effective California regulations. All CEQA documents that were not circulated for the statutory public review and comment period prior to the first of this year must comply with the new content requirements.
The Amendments address legislative changes to CEQA, clarify certain portions of the existing CEQA Guidelines, and update the CEQA Guidelines to be consistent with recent court decisions. The Amendments include changes or additions involving approximately thirty (30) different sections of the CEQA Guidelines and address nearly every step of the environmental review process. The last comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines occurred in the late 1990s.
Among the changes included within the Amendments are efficiency improvements intended to result in a smoother, more predictable process for agencies, project applicants, and the public. The environmental checklist that most agencies use to perform their environmental review has been updated and existing exemptions within the CEQA Guidelines have been enhanced. The Amendments also incorporate changes intended to make existing programmatic environmental review easier to use for later projects and clarify when a subsequent project may be considered within the scope of a program EIR. The Amendments further provide guidance on the analysis of water supply impacts, energy impacts, transportation impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions.