How does a Public Agency determine whether a project is exempt under CEQA?


Is the project statutorily exempt?

  • Statutory exemptions are descriptions of types of projects for which the California Legislature has provided a blanket exemption from CEQA procedures and policies.
  • Statutory exemptions are found in various places in the California Code.
  • A comprehensive source of statutory exemptions is found in Article 18 of the CEQA Guidelines. Most of them are listed and summarized in Section 15282 of the Guidelines.

Is the project categorically exempt?

  • Categorical exemptions are descriptions of types of projects which the Secretary of the Resources Agency has determined do not have a significant effect on the environment.
  • Categorical exemptions are found in Article 19 of the CEQA Guidelines.
  • Unlike statutory exemptions, categorical exemptions are not absolute. There are exceptions to the exemptions depending on the nature or location of the project (Section 15300.2 Guidelines).

Will the project have 'No Possible Significant Effect'?

  • A project is exempt from CEQA if it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility of a significant effect.
Statutory Exemptions Listed | Public Resources Code §§21080 - 21080.33
Categorical Exemptions Defined | PublicResources Code §21084
Addition or Deletion of Exempt Categories | Public Resources Code §21086
Categorical Exemptions | 14 California Code of Regulations §§15300 - 15329
Categorical Exemptions Defined | 14 California Code of Regulations §15354
Mountain Lion Foundation v. Fish and Game Commission(1997) 16 Cal.4th 105
Davidon Homes v. City of San Jose(1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 106
Castaic Lake Water Agency v. City of Santa Clarita(1995) 41 Cal.App.4th 1257
Surfrider Foundation v. California Coastal Commission(1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 151
City of Pasadena v. State of California(1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 810
Dunn Edwards Corp. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District(1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 644
Association for the Protection of Values v. Ukiah(1991) 2 Cal.App.4th 720
East Peninsula Education Council v. Palos Verdes(1989) 210 Cal.App.3d 155
Campbell v. Third District Agricultural Association (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 115
Lewis v. Seventeenth District Agricultural Association(1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 823
People v. City of South Lake Tahoe(1978) 466 F.Supp 527
Wildlife Alive. v. Chickering (1976) 18 Cal.3d 190

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