HOW DOES THE AGENCY DECIDE WHETHER A PROJECT MAY HAVE A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT?
A lead agency must consider direct physical changes which may be caused by and are immediately related to the project and indirect physical changes which are reasonably foreseeable consequences ofthe project. The determination of whether these physical changes may have a significant effect on the environment calls for the careful judgement, based on scientific and factual data and supported by substantial evidence.
WHAT TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE TO THE LEAD AGENCY IN MAKING THIS DETERMINATION?
1. The Environmental Checklist found in Appendix G is a useful tool in conducting the initial study to determine whether there may be significant effects caused by the project. For more on conducting an initial study, see Lead Agency Prepares an Initial Study
2. Existing regulatory standards are an important indication of the level at which a project's impacts are significant. See e.g. Guidelines §15064(h).
3. Certain conditions mandate a finding of significance. They are listed in Guidelines §15065.
4. General guidance to assist lead agencies in making this critical determination is found in Guidelines §15064.
5. Thresholds of significance adopted by lead agencies are the best guide for making this determination. See Guidelines §15064.7.
BASED ON THE ABOVE DETERMINATION, ONE OF THREE DOCUMENTS MUST BE PREPARED.
A Negative Declaration (ND) is a written statement briefly describing the reasons why a proposed project will not have a significant environmental impact and that the project will not require the preparation of an EIR. (Public Resources Code § 21064)
A Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is a Negative Declaration prepared for a project when the initial study has identified potentially significant effects on the environment but the effects now pose no significant effect on the environment because the project was revised. The revisions to the project plans must mitigate the harmful effects to the environment and there must be no substantial evidence supporting that the revised project will have a negative effect on the environment. (Public Resources Code § 21064.5)
An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is an informational document which provides public agencies and the general public with detailed information about the effect that a proposed project is likely to have on the environment. The EIR also lists the ways in which these environmental effects might be minimized and whether there are any alternatives to such a project. (Public Resources Code § 21061, 14 California Code of Regulations § 15121)
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