Title 14. California Code of Regulations

Chapter 3. Guidelines for Implementation of the

California Environmental Quality Act

 

Article 4. Lead Agency

 

Sections 15050 to 15053

 

15050. Lead Agency Concept

 

(a) Where a project is to be carried out or approved by more than one public agency, one public agency shall be responsible for preparing an EIR or Negative Declaration for the project. This agency shall be called the Lead Agency.

 

(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), the decision-making body of each Responsible Agency shall consider the Lead Agency's EIR or Negative Declaration prior to acting upon or approving the project. Each Responsible Agency shall certify that its decision-making body reviewed and considered the information contained in the EIR or Negative Declaration on the project.

 

(c) The determination of the Lead Agency of whether to prepare an EIR or a Negative Declaration shall be final and conclusive for all persons, including Responsible Agencies, unless:

 

(1) The decision is successfully challenged as provided in Section 21167 of the Public Resources Code,

 

(2) Circumstances or conditions changed as provided in Section 15162, or

 

(3) A Responsible Agency becomes a Lead Agency under Section 15052.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21080.1, 21165, and 21167.2, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: This section provides a short and concise statement of the Lead Agency concept for clarity of this article. While the bulk of this article deals with identifying the appropriate Lead Agency, a summary of the Lead Agency concept is appropriate because the concept is fundamental to the CEQA process as a whole.

 

15051. Criteria for Identifying the Lead Agency

 

Where two or more public agencies will be involved with a project, the determination of which agency will be the Lead Agency shall be governed by the following criteria:

 

(a) If the project will be carried out by a public agency, that agency shall be the Lead Agency even if the project would be located within the jurisdiction of another public agency.

 

(b) If the project is to be carried out by a nongovernmental person or entity, the Lead Agency shall be the public agency with the greatest responsibility for supervising or approving the project as a whole.

 

(1) The Lead Agency will normally be the agency with general governmental powers, such as a city or county, rather than an agency with a single or limited purpose such as an air pollution control district or a district which will provide a public service or public utility to the project.

 

(2) Where a city prezones an area, the city will be the appropriate Lead Agency for any subsequent annexation of the area and should prepare the appropriate environmental document at the time of the prezoning. The Local Agency Formation Commission shall act as a Responsible Agency.

 

(c) Where more than one public agency equally meet the criteria in subdivision (b), the agency which will act first on the project in question shall be the Lead Agency.

 

(d) Where the provisions of subdivisions (a), (b), and (c) leave two or more public agencies with a substantial claim to be the Lead Agency, the public agencies may by agreement designate an agency as the Lead Agency. An agreement may also provide for cooperative efforts by two or more agencies by contract, joint exercise of powers, or similar devices.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21165, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: The purpose of this section is to provide the criteria for identifying which of several competing agencies shall be the Lead Agency for a project. By providing these criteria, the Guidelines will enable most agencies to determine for themselves which agency is the appropriate Lead Agency in any given circumstance. Thus, most projects will be spared the additional time and cost involved in submitting a Lead Agency dispute for resolution by the Office of Planning and Research.

 

15052. Shift in Lead Agency Designation

 

(a) Where a Responsible Agency is called on to grant an approval for a project subject to CEQA for which another public agency was the appropriate Lead Agency, the Responsible Agency shall assume the role of the Lead Agency when any of the following conditions occur:

 

(1) The Lead Agency did not prepare any environmental documents for the project, and the statute of limitations has expired for a challenge to the action of the appropriate Lead Agency.

 

(2) The Lead Agency prepared environmental documents for the project, but the following conditions occur:

 

(A) A subsequent EIR is required pursuant to Section 15162,

 

(B) The Lead Agency has granted a final approval for the project, and

 

(C) The statute of limitations for challenging the Lead Agency's action under CEQA has expired.

 

(3) The Lead Agency prepared inadequate environmental documents without consulting with the Responsible Agency as required by Sections 15072 or 15082, and the statute of limitations has expired for a challenge to the action of the appropriate Lead Agency.

 

(b) When a Responsible Agency assumes the duties of a Lead Agency under this section, the time limits applicable to a Lead Agency shall apply to the actions of the agency assuming the Lead Agency duties.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21165, Public Resources Code.

 

Discussion: The purpose of this section is to explain how Responsible Agencies shall deal with the problem they encounter when the appropriate Lead Agency failed to comply with CEQA. As a general rule, Responsible Agencies must use the EIR or Negative Declaration prepared by the Lead Agency even if the Responsible Agency believes that the document is inadequate. The purpose for this general rule is to require Responsible Agencies to work through the normal CEQA consultation and review process to obtain adequate documents from the Lead Agency. If the Responsible Agency is dissatisfied with the end product, the Responsible Agency's only relief is to litigate the adequacy of the document within 30 days.

 

Section 15052 deals with the situation where the normal CEQA process broke down. The section provides three exceptions to the general rule. These are (1) where the Lead Agency prepared no document for the project, (2) where a subsequent EIR would be required, and (3) where the Lead Agency failed to consult with the Responsible Agencies as required by CEQA. If any of these situations occurs and the statute of limitations has expired for a challenge to the action of the appropriate Lead Agency, then the Responsible Agency would be required to assume the role of the Lead Agency. These exceptions are narrowly drawn in order to require Responsible Agencies to work within the normal CEQA process to the maximum extent possible. Where the normal process breaks down in any of these three ways, the Responsible Agency could not get an adequate document from the Lead Agency due to no fault of its own. This section provides an interpretation necessary to allow the Responsible Agency to obtain an adequate analysis of the environmental problems.

 

Subsection (b) is added to provide an interpretation as to which set of time limits would apply to the agency when it shifts roles. There has been confusion on this point because the agency could be viewed as either a Lead or a Responsible Agency. The section provides that when the agency acts in the Lead Agency role, the time limits involved will be those that apply to a Lead Agency.

 

15053. Designation of Lead Agency by the Office of Planning and Research

 

(a) If there is a dispute over which of several agencies should be the Lead Agency for a project, the disputing agencies should consult with each other in an effort to resolve the dispute prior to submitting it to the Office of Planning and Research. If an agreement cannot be reached, any public agency, or the applicant if a private project is involved, may submit the dispute to the Office of Planning and Research for resolution.

 

(b) The Office of Planning and Research shall designate a Lead Agency within 21 days after receiving a completed request to resolve a dispute.

 

(c) Regulations adopted by the Office of Planning and Research for resolving Lead Agency disputes may be found in Title 14, California Code of Regulations, Sections 16000 et seq.

 

(d) Designation of a Lead Agency by the Office of Planning and Research shall be based on consideration of the criteria in Section 15051 as well as the capacity of the agency to adequately fulfill the requirements of CEQA.

 

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21165, Public Resources Code; California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Sections 16000-16041.

 

Discussion: The purpose of this section is to outline the process to be used by the Office of Planning and Research in resolving Lead Agency disputes. Because resolving a dispute involves additional costs and delays for a project, the Guidelines require the disputing agencies to try to resolve the issue among themselves. Only where an agreement cannot be reached, would the issue be submitted to OPR. Once the dispute is submitted to OPR, certain formal steps would be required in order to allow all interested parties to make their views known. These steps are contained in the regulations identified in subsection (c). This section outlines the process so that public agencies can understand the process before deciding to submit a dispute to OPR.