The California Environmental Quality Act is a statute. This statute requires all state and local agencies to identify any significant environmental impacts of their actions. It also requires that they avoid these actions and mitigate negative environmental impacts of their actions whenever possible.
An Overview of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
CEQA is the state's broadest environmental law. It provides guidance to the Department in regards to issuing permits and approving projects. It is interpreted by the courts to provide the fullest protection of the environment without venturing outside the statutes of California. It applies to any discretionary project proposed to or approved by a California public agency. The scope of CEQA includes private southern California development projects that require discretionary government approval.
CEQA discloses significant environmental effects of proposed discretionary projects to the public through: Initial Study (IS), Negative Declaration (ND), or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Act is also intended to prevent or minimize environmental damage through project alternative development, mitigation measures and monitoring. Through CEQA, the agency's decision making process is disclosed to the public. This is the process by which discretionary projects gain approval after the presentation of findings and statements. It has been seen to enhance the public's participation in the environmental review process (i.e. scoping meetings, public notice, public review, hearings, and the judicial process). Most agree that CEQA effectively improves the interagency coordination with early consultations, scoping meetings, notices of preparation, and State Clearinghouse review.
Southern California property owners who are considering undertaking further development of their holdings should consider any environmental impacts of their actions prior to undertaking the project. A failure to comply with CEQA by disclosing all applicable information throughout the various stages in the CEQA process, would be considered a prejudicial abuse of discretion. This would leave the individual, business or corporation responsible for the failure to present relevant information vulnerable to potential lawsuits.
If you find yourself facing potential lawsuits for failing to comply with the CEQA process, please get in touch with one of the experienced real estate attorneys at southern California's The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP as soon as possible so we can address the situation and prepare for the next step.