Development of CEQA Documents
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is an environmental law that applies to projects subject to approval or permitting by any State, regional, or local agency in California. Its purpose is to ensure informed governmental decisions, identify ways to avoid or reduce environmental damage through feasible mitigation or project alternatives, and provide for public disclosure of potential environmental effects.
CEQA generally requires State and local agency staff to inform agency decisionmakers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects seeking approval and to identify ways for the project proponent to reduce significant environmental impacts to the extent feasible. The CEQA process generally begins with a determination of CEQA applicability or if the project is exempt from CEQA, e.g., if it qualifies for a Categorical Exemption (CatX). Next, an Initial Study is prepared that reviews a series of CEQA checklist questions on each of the following topics:
Based on the Initial Study, if a project subject to CEQA will not cause any significant environmental impacts, the Lead Agency may adopt a Negative Declaration (ND) to briefly present the less than significant impacts. If mitigation is necessary to reduce impacts to be less than significant, the CEQA document can be a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). If the project may potentially cause significant adverse environmental impacts or where there is expected to be substantial public controversy, the Lead Agency must prepare a more detailed Environmental Impact Report (EIR). An EIR contains in-depth studies of potentially significant impacts, measures to reduce or avoid those impacts, and an analysis of alternatives for the project. A key feature of the CEQA process is the opportunity for the public to review. Yorke Staff has extensive experience addressing the public’s comments on environmental documents.
Yorke Engineering specializes in CEQA documents where air quality, GHG emissions, and noise are the primary areas of concern, and our staff has years of experience in preparing complete, well-rounded CEQA documents for both public and private sector clients. We help with every step of the process to assist with determining CEQA applicability, identify the appropriate CatX, and if CEQA is applicable, prepare the Notice of Intent when needed. As noted above, the Initial Study is an important step in determining if an MND is appropriate or if an EIR is needed. We can develop Initial Studies to address all of the checklist topics and advise on whether the MND or EIR path would be the most appropriate for the project. Once the CEQA document is selected, Yorke staff can assist with preparation of analyses, CEQA sections, and determinations, and we have assisted numerous clients with coordinating scoping meetings and public hearings, when necessary. We have years of experience in creating transparent, perceptive, and well-articulated environmental documents that are well received by State and local Lead Agencies. In the case of environmental factors that were found to be significant in an IS or MND, we have been successful in developing in-depth analyses for a full EIR. In addition, for several projects we have developed project-specific mitigation measures and plans which, when implemented, reduce project-related significant impacts to less than significant.
A successful CEQA environmental document addresses the needs of both the project proponent and the Lead Agency. With Yorke’s extensive experience working with numerous State and local Lead Agencies and our knowledge of State and local rules and regulations, we assist with meeting all the requirements of the CEQA process while avoiding unnecessary effort. Our understanding of the core concerns of the Lead Agency, the surrounding land uses, and specific project details leads to a more comprehensive and complete environmental document as well as helping to identify the project-specific areas of concern and reduce overall completion time and costs. Through this knowledge base and experience, Yorke staff has developed numerous projects specific mitigation measures and plans, which when implemented reduce project-related significant impacts to less than significant.