CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires sate and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.
The impetus for CEQA can be traced to the passage of the first federal environmental protection statute in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In response to this federal law, the California State Assembly created the Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Quality to study the possibility of supplementing NEPA through state law. This legislative committee, in 1970, issued a report entitled The Environmental Bill of Rights, which called for a California counterpart to NEPA. Later that same year, acting on the recommendations of the select committee, the legislature passed, and Governor Reagan signed, the CEQA statute.
CEQA applies to certain activities of state and local public agencies. A public agency must comply with CEQA when it undertakes an activity defined by CEQA as a "project." A project is an activity undertaken by a public agency or a private activity which must receive some discretionary approval (meaning that the agency has the authority to deny the requested permit or approval) from a government agency which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment.
Most proposals for physical development in California are subject to the provisions of CEQA, as are many governmental decisions which do not immediately result in physical development (such as adoption of a general or community plan). Every development project which requires a discretionary governmental approval will require at least some environmental review pursuant to CEQA, unless an exemption applies.
For additional information, please visit the State's website by clicking the link below.