Title 14. California Code of Regulations

Chapter 3. Guidelines for Implementation of the

California Environmental Quality Act

 

Article 11. Types of EIRs

 

Sections 15160 to 15170

 

15160. General

 

This article describes a number of examples of variations in EIRs as the documents are tailored to different situations and intended uses. These variations are not exclusive. Lead Agencies may use other variations consistent with the Guidelines to meet the needs of other circumstances. All EIRs must meet the content requirements discussed in Article 9 beginning with Section 15120.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21061, 21100, and 21151, Public Resources Code.

 

15161. Project EIR

 

The most common type of EIR examines the environmental impacts of a specific development project. This type of EIR should focus primarily on the changes in the environment that would result from the development project. The EIR shall examine all phases of the project including planning, construction, and operation.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21061, 21100, and 21151, Public Resources Code.

 

15162. Subsequent EIRs and Negative Declarations

 

(a) When an EIR has been certified or a negative declaration adopted for a project, no subsequent EIR shall be prepared for that project unless the lead agency determines, on the basis of substantial evidence in the light of the whole record, one or more of the following:

 

(1) Substantial changes are proposed in the project which will require major revisions of the previous EIR or negative declaration due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects;

 

(2) Substantial changes occur with respect to the circumstances under which the project is undertaken which will require major revisions of the previous EIR or Negative Declaration due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects; or

 

(3) New information of substantial importance, which was not known and could not have been known with the exercise of reasonable diligence at the time the previous EIR was certified as complete or the Negative Declaration was adopted, shows any of the following:

 

(A) The project will have one or more significant effects not discussed in the previous EIR or negative declaration;

 

(B) Significant effects previously examined will be substantially more severe than shown in the previous EIR;

 

(C) Mitigation measures or alternatives previously found not to be feasible would in fact be feasible, and would substantially reduce one or more significant effects of the project, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative; or

 

(D) Mitigation measures or alternatives which are considerably different from those analyzed in the previous EIR would substantially reduce one or more significant effects on the environment, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative.

 

(b) If changes to a project or its circumstances occur or new information becomes available after adoption of a negative declaration, the lead agency shall prepare a subsequent EIR if required under subdivision (a). Otherwise the lead agency shall determine whether to prepare a subsequent negative declaration, an addendum, or no further documentation.

 

(c) Once a project has been approved, the lead agency's role in project approval is completed, unless further discretionary approval on that project is required. Information appearing after an approval does not require reopening of that approval. If after the project is approved, any of the conditions described in subdivision (a) occurs, a subsequent EIR or negative declaration shall only be prepared by the public agency which grants the next discretionary approval for the project, if any. In this situation no other responsible agency shall grant an approval for the project until the subsequent EIR has been certified or subsequent negative declaration adopted.

 

(d) A subsequent EIR or subsequent negative declaration shall be given the same notice and public review as required under Section 15087 or Section 15072. A subsequent EIR or negative declaration shall state where the previous document is available and can be reviewed.

 

Note: Authority cited: Public Resources Code Section 21083; Reference: Section 21166, Public Resources Code; Bowman v. City of Petaluma (1986) 185 Cal.App.3d 1065; Benton v. Board of Supervisors (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1467; and Fort Mojave Indian Tribe v. California Department of Health Services et al. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1574.

 

Discussion:This section implements the requirements in Section 21166 of CEQA which limit preparation of a subsequent EIR to certain situations. This section provides interpretation of the three situations in which the statute requires preparation of a subsequent EIR. These interpretations are necessary to add certainty to the process.

 

This section also clarifies that a subsequent EIR may be prepared where a negative declaration had previously been adopted. Further, a subsequent negative declaration may be adopted where none of the situations described in subsection (a) have occurred.

 

Subsections (b) and (c) explain which agency would have responsibility for preparing a subsequent EIR under different circumstances. A subsequent EIR must, of course, receive the same circulation and review as the previous EIR.

 

Fund for Environmental Defense v. Orange (1988) 204 Cal. App. 3d 1538, contains a discussion of the application of 15162 and 15163. The Court in Bowman v. Petaluma (1986) 185 Cal. App. 3d 1065 distinguished requirements for a subsequent EIR from the threshold required for initial EIR preparation, saying "whereas 15064 (21151 PRC) requires an EIR if the initial project may have a significant effect on the environment, 15162 (21166 PRC) indicates a quite different intent, namely, to restrict the powers of agencies by prohibiting them from requiring a subsequent or supplemental EIR unless "substantial changes" in the project or its circumstances will require major revisions to the EIR. 15162 (21166 PRC) comes into play precisely because in-depth review has already occurred, the time for challenging the sufficiency of the original EIR has long since expired, and the question is whether circumstances have changed enough to justify repeating a substantial portion of the process.

 

15163. Supplement to an EIR

 

(a) The Lead or Responsible Agency may choose to prepare a supplement to an EIR rather than a subsequent EIR if:

 

(1) Any of the conditions described in Section 15162 would require the preparation of a subsequent EIR, and

 

(2) Only minor additions or changes would be necessary to make the previous EIR adequately apply to the project in the changed situation.

 

(b) The supplement to the EIR need contain only the information necessary to make the previous EIR adequate for the project as revised.

 

(c) A supplement to an EIR shall be given the same kind of notice and public review as is given to a draft EIR under Section 15087.

 

(d) A supplement to an EIR may be circulated by itself without recirculating the previous draft or final EIR.

 

(e) When the agency decides whether to approve the project, the decision-making body shall consider the previous EIR as revised by the supplemental EIR. A finding under Section 15091 shall be made for each significant effect shown in the previous EIR as revised.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21166, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: This section provides a short-form method where only minor additions or changes would be necessary in the previous EIR to make that EIR apply in the changed situation. The section also provides essential interpretations of how to handle public notice, public review, and circulation of the supplement.

 

A supplement to an EIR may be distinguished from a subsequent EIR by the following: a supplement augments a previously certified EIR to the extent necessary to address the conditions described in section 15162 and to examine mitigation and project alternatives accordingly. It is intended to revise the previous EIR through supplementation. A subsequent EIR, in contrast, is a complete EIR which focuses on the conditions described in section 15162.

 

15164. Addendum to an EIR or Negative Declaration

 

(a) The lead agency or responsible agency shall prepare an addendum to a previously certified EIR if some changes or additions are necessary but none of the conditions described in Section 15162 calling for preparation of a subsequent EIR have occurred.

 

(b) An addendum to an adopted negative declaration may be prepared if only minor technical changes or additions are necessary or none of the conditions described in Section 15162 calling for the preparation of a subsequent EIR or negative declaration have occurred.

 

(c) An addendum need not be circulated for public review but can be included in or attached to the final EIR or adopted negative declaration.

 

(d) The decision making body shall consider the addendum with the final EIR or adopted negative declaration prior to making a decision on the project.

 

(e) A brief explanation of the decision not to prepare a subsequent EIR pursuant to Section 15162 should be included in an addendum to an EIR, the lead agency's findings on the project, or elsewhere in the record. The explanation must be supported by substantial evidence.

 

Note: Authority cited: Public Resources Code Section 21083; Reference: Section 21166, Public Resources Code; Bowman v. City of Petaluma (1986) 185 Cal.App.3d 1065; and Benton v. Board of Supervisors (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1467.

 

Discussion: This section is designed to provide clear authority for an addendum as a way of making minor corrections in EIRs and negative declarations without recirculating the EIR or negative declaration.

 

15165. Multiple and Phased Projects

 

Where individual projects are, or a phased project is, to be undertaken and where the total undertaking comprises a project with significant environmental effect, the Lead Agency shall prepare a single program EIR for the ultimate project as described in Section 15168. Where an individual project is a necessary precedent for action on a larger project, or commits the Lead Agency to a larger project, with significant environmental effect, an EIR must address itself to the scope of the larger project. Where one project is one of several similar projects of a public agency, but is not deemed a part of a larger undertaking or a larger project, the agency may prepare one EIR for all projects, or one for each project, but shall in either case comment upon the cumulative effect.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21061, 21100, and 21151, Public Resources Code; Whitman v. Board of Supervisors, (1979) 88 Cal. App. 3d 397.

 

Discussion: This section follows the principle that the EIR on a project must show the big picture of what is involved. If the approval of one particular activity could be expected to lead to many other activities being approved in the same general area, the EIR should examine the expected effects of the ultimate environmental changes. This section is consistent with the Whitman decision cited in the note interpreting CEQA.

 

15166. EIR as Part of a General Plan

 

(a) The requirements for preparing an EIR on a local general plan, element, or amendment thereof will be satisfied by using the general plan, or element document, as the EIR and no separate EIR will be required, if:

 

(1) The general plan addresses all the points required to be in an EIR by Article 9 of these Guidelines, and

 

(2) The document contains a special section or a cover sheet identifying where the general plan document addresses each of the points required.

 

(b) Where an EIR rather than a Negative Declaration has been prepared for a general plan, element, or amendment thereto, the EIR shall be forwarded to the State Clearinghouse for review. The requirement shall apply regardless of whether the EIR is prepared as a separate document or as a part of the general plan or element document.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21003, 21061, 21083, 21100, 21104, 21151, and 21152, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: A separate section is provided to authorize combining the general plan document with the EIR. This section allows the use of the general plan document as the EIR if the document contains a special section or a cover sheet identifying where each of the points required in an EIR may be found. This section also identifies the special requirement for an EIR on a general plan to be submitted to the State Clearinghouse for review as a project of areawide, regional, or statewide significance as provided in Section 15207.

 

15167. Staged EIR

 

(a) Where a large capital project will require a number of discretionary approvals from government agencies and one of the approvals will occur more than two years before construction will begin, a staged EIR may be prepared covering the entire project in a general form. The staged EIR shall evaluate the proposal in light of current and contemplated plans and produce an informed estimate of the environmental consequences of the entire project. The aspect of the project before the public agency for approval shall be discussed with a greater degree of specificity.

 

(b) When a staged EIR has been prepared, a supplement to the EIR shall be prepared when a later approval is required for the project, and the information available at the time of the later approval would permit consideration of additional environmental impacts, mitigation measures, or reasonable alternatives to the project.

 

(c) Where a statute such as the Warren-Alquist Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act provides that a specific agency shall be the Lead Agency for a project and requires the Lead Agency to prepare an EIR, a Responsible Agency which must grant an approval for the project before the Lead Agency has completed the EIR may prepare and consider a staged EIR.

 

(d) An agency requested to prepare a staged EIR may decline to act as the Lead Agency if it determines, among other factors, that:

 

(1) Another agency would be the appropriate Lead Agency; and

 

(2) There is no compelling need to prepare a staged EIR and grant an approval for the project before the appropriate Lead Agency will take its action on the project.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21003, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: The staged EIR was developed as a device to deal with the problem of a large development project which would require many years for planning, engineering, and construction but would need a number of approvals from public agencies before the final plans for the project would be available. Where those final plans would not be available, the Lead Agency preparing an EIR for one of the early approvals would have difficulty providing enough information about the project to evaluate the effects of the entire project as would otherwise be required.

 

The device of the staged EIR provides a special relaxation of the requirement for the EIR on a development project to examine the entire project in detail. To make up for this lack of detail with the early approval, the section requires preparation of a supplement with later approvals when additional information becomes available. The section also allows this device to be used in the troublesome situation where an agency with limited control over the project is asked to grant the first approval for the project long before the normal Lead Agency would be called upon to act. The Responsible Agency needs some document to use in order to comply with CEQA. At the same time, due to its limited control over the project, it would not be a prime candidate for being Lead Agency. This approach allows the Responsible Agency to do a limited EIR examining the effects of its approval but noting in a general way the larger scope of the project and the general environmental effects expected.

 

15168. Program EIR

 

(a) General. A program EIR is an EIR which may be prepared on a series of actions that can be characterized as one large project and are related either:

 

(1) Geographically,

 

(2) A logical parts in the chain of contemplated actions,

 

(3) In connection with issuance of rules, regulations, plans, or other general criteria to govern the conduct of a continuing program, or

 

(4) As individual activities carried out under the same authorizing statutory or regulatory authority and having generally similar environmental effects which can be mitigated in similar ways.

 

(b) Advantages. Use of a program EIR can provide the following advantages. The program EIR can:

 

(1) Provide an occasion for a more exhaustive consideration of effects and alternatives than would be practical in an EIR on an individual action,

 

(2) Ensure consideration of cumulative impacts that might be slighted in a case-by-case analysis,

 

(3) Avoid duplicative reconsideration of basic policy considerations,

 

(4) Allow the Lead Agency to consider broad policy alternatives and programwide mitigation measures at an early time when the agency has greater flexibility to deal with basic problems or cumulative impacts, and

 

(5) Allow reduction in paperwork.

 

(c) Use with Later Activities. Subsequent activities in the program must be examined in the light of the program EIR to determine whether an additional environmental document must be prepared.

 

(1) If a later activity would have effects that were not examined in the program EIR, a new Initial Study would need to be prepared leading to either an EIR or a Negative Declaration.

 

(2) If the agency finds that pursuant to Section 15162, no new effects could occur or no new mitigation measures would be required, the agency can approve the activity as being within the scope of the project covered by the program EIR, and no new environmental document would be required.

 

(3) An agency shall incorporate feasible mitigation measures and alternatives developed in the program EIR into subsequent actions in the program.

 

(4) Where the subsequent activities involve site specific operations, the agency should use a written checklist or similar device to document the evaluation of the site and the activity to determine whether the environmental effects of the operation were covered in the program EIR.

 

(5) A program EIR will be most helpful in dealing with subsequent activities if it deals with the effects of the program as specifically and comprehensively as possible. With a good and detailed analysis of the program, many subsequent activities could be found to be within the scope of the project described in the program EIR, and no further environmental documents would be required.

 

(d) Use with Subsequent EIRs and Negative Declarations. A program EIR can be used to simplify the task of preparing environmental documents on later parts of the program. The program EIR can:

 

(1) Provide the basis in an Initial Study for determining whether the later activity may have any significant effects.

 

(2) Be incorporated by reference to deal with regional influences, secondary effects, cumulative impacts, broad alternatives, and other factors that apply to the program as a whole.

 

(3) Focus an EIR on a subsequent project to permit discussion solely of new effects which had not been considered before.

 

(e) Notice with Later Activities. When a law other than CEQA requires public notice when the agency later proposes to carry out or approve an activity within the program and to rely on the program EIR for CEQA compliance, the notice for the activity shall include a statement that:

 

(1) This activity is within the scope of the program approved earlier, and

 

(2) The program EIR adequately describes the activity for the purposes of CEQA.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21003, Public Resources Code; County of Inyo v. Yorty, (1973) 32 Cal. App. 3d 795.

 

Discussion: The program EIR is a device originally developed by federal agencies under NEPA. Use of this approach was recommended for CEQA in the court decision of County of Inyo v. Yorty cited in the note.

 

The detailed description of the permissible uses of this document are provided in an effort to encourage its use. The program EIR can be used effectively with a decision to carry out a new governmental program or to adopt a new body of regulations in a regulatory program. The program EIR enables the agency to examine the overall effects of the proposed course of action and to take steps to avoid unnecessary adverse environmental effects.

 

Use of the program EIR also enables the Lead Agency to characterize the overall program as the project being approved at that time. Following this approach when individual activities within the program are proposed, the agency would be required to examine the individual activities to determine whether their effects were fully analyzed in the program EIR. If the activities would have no effects beyond those analyzed in the program EIR, the agency could assert that the activities are merely part of the program which had been approved earlier, and no further CEQA compliance would be required. This approach offers many possibilities for agencies to reduce their costs of CEQA compliance and still achieve high levels of environmental protection.

 

15169. Master Environmental Assessment

 

(a) General. A public agency may prepare a Master Environmental Assessment, inventory, or data base for all, or a portion of, the territory subject to its control in order to provide information which may be used or referenced in EIRs or Negative Declarations. Neither the content, the format, nor the procedures to be used to develop a Master Environmental Assessment are prescribed by these Guidelines. The descriptions contained in this section are advisory. A Master Environmental Assessment is suggested solely as an approach to identify and organize environmental information for a region or area of the state.

 

(b) Contents. A Master Environmental Assessment may contain an inventory of the physical and biological characteristics of the area for which it is prepared and may contain such additional data and information as the public agency determines is useful or necessary to describe environmental characteristics of the area. It may include identification of existing levels of quality and supply of air and water, capacities and levels of use of existing services and facilities, and generalized incremental effects of different categories of development projects by type, scale, and location.

 

(c) Preparation.

 

(1) A Master Environmental Assessment or inventory may be prepared in many possible ways. For example, a Master Environmental Assessment may be prepared as a special, comprehensive study of the area involved, as part of the EIR on a general plan, or as a data base accumulated by indexing EIRs prepared for individual projects or programs in the area involved.

 

(2) The information contained in a Master Environmental Assessment should be reviewed periodically and revised as needed so that it is accurate and current.

 

(3) When advantageous to do so, Master Environmental Assessments may be prepared through a joint exercise of powers agreement with neighboring local agencies or with the assistance of the appropriate Council of Governments.

 

(d) Uses.

 

(1) A Master Environmental Assessment can identify the environmental characteristics and constraints of an area. This information can be used to influence the design and location of individual projects.

 

(2) A Master Environmental Assessment may provide information agencies can use in initial studies to decide whether certain environmental effects are likely to occur and whether certain effects will be significant.

 

(3) A Master Environmental Assessment can provide a central source of current information for use in preparing individual EIRs and Negative Declarations.

 

(4) Relevant portions of a Master Environmental Assessment can be referenced and summarized in EIRs and Negative Declarations.

 

(5) A Master Environmental Assessment can assist in identifying long range, areawide, and cumulative impacts of individual projects proposed in the area covered by the assessment.

 

(6) A Master Environmental Assessment can assist a city or county in formulating a general plan or any element of such a plan by identifying environmental characteristics and constraints that need to be addressed in the general plan.

 

(7) A Master Environmental Assessment can serve as a reference document to assist public agencies which review other environmental documents dealing with activities in the area covered by the assessment. The public agency preparing the assessment should forward a completed copy to each agency which will review projects in the area.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21003, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: The Master Environmental Assessment was developed as a way of providing a data base for use with later EIRs. If an agency prepared a Master Environmental Assessment, the agency could reduce the amount of work necessary to prepare later EIRs. The environmental setting would have been fully analyzed, and the likely environmental effects in the area could be anticipated. Thus, the Master Environmental Assessment could help focus initial studies as well as EIRs.

 

15170. Joint EIR-EIS

 

A Lead Agency under CEQA may work with a federal agency to prepare a joint document which will meet the requirements of both CEQA and NEPA. Use of such a joint document is described in Article 14, beginning with Section 15220.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21083.5 and 21083.7, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: This section identifies the joint EIR-EIS as a special type of EIR. This special treatment is appropriate because many unusual steps would be required in order to meet the requirements of NEPA as well as CEQA. These steps may include formal scoping hearings, publication of notice in the Federal Register, and public review of the final EIR-EIS. This section also clearly establishes the validity of this joint document.