Chapter 1: Policy

 

21000. Legislative intent


The Legislature finds and declares as follows:
(a) The maintenance of a quality environment for the people of this state now and in the future is a matter of statewide concern.
(b) It is necessary to provide a high-quality environment that at all times is healthful and pleasing to the senses and intellect of man.
(c) There is a need to understand the relationship between the maintenance of high-quality ecological systems and the general welfare of the people of the state, including their enjoyment of the natural resources of the state.
(d) The capacity of the environment is limited, and it is the intent of the Legislature that the government of the state take immediate steps to identify any critical thresholds for the health and safety of the people of the state and take all coordinated actions necessary to prevent such thresholds being reached.
(e) Every citizen has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.
(f) The interrelationship of policies and practices in the management of natural resources and waste disposal requires systematic and concerted efforts by public and private interests to enhance environmental quality and to control environmental pollution.
(g) It is the intent of the Legislature that all agencies of the state government which regulate activities of private individuals, corporations, and public agencies which are found to affect the quality of the environment, shall regulate such activities so that major consideration is given to preventing environmental damage, while providing a decent home and satisfying living environment for every Californian.

 

 

21001. Additional legislative intent


The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state to:
(a) Develop and maintain a high-quality environment now and in the future, and take all action necessary to protect, rehabilitate, and enhance the environmental quality of the state.
(b) Take all action necessary to provide the people of this state with clean air and water, enjoyment of aesthetic, natural, scenic, and historic environmental qualities, and freedom from excessive noise.
(c) Prevent the elimination of fish or wildlife species due to man's activities, insure that fish and wildlife populations do not drop below self- perpetuating levels, and preserve for future generations representations of all plant and animal communities and examples of the major periods of California history.
(d) Ensure that the long-term protection of the environment, consistent with the provision of a decent home and suitable living environment for every Californian, shall be the guiding criterion in public decisions.
(e) Create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony to fulfill the social and economic requirements of present and future generations.
(f) Require governmental agencies at all levels to develop standards and procedures necessary to protect environmental quality.
(g) Require governmental agencies at all levels to consider qualitative factors as well as economic and technical factors and long-term benefits and costs, in addition to short-term benefits and costs and to consider alternatives to proposed actions affecting the environment.

 

 

21001.1. Review of public agency projects


The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that projects to be carried out by public agencies be subject to the same level of review and consideration under this division as that of private projects required to be approved by public agencies.

 

 

21002. Approval of projects; feasible alternative or mitigation measures


The Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures available which would substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of such projects, and that the procedures required by this division are intended to assist public agencies in systematically identifying both the significant effects of proposed projects and the feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures which will avoid or substantially lessen such significant effects. The Legislature further finds and declares that in the event specific economic, social, or other conditions make infeasible such project alternatives or such mitigation measures, individual projects may be approved in spite of one or more significant effects thereof.

 

 

21002.1. Use of environmental impact reports; policy


In order to achieve the objectives set forth in Section 21002, the Legislature hereby finds and declares that the following policy shall apply to the use of environmental impact reports prepared pursuant to this division:
(a) The purpose of an environmental impact report is to identify the significant effects on the environment of a project, to identify alternatives to the project, and to indicate the manner in which those significant effects can be mitigated or avoided.
(b) Each public agency shall mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so.
(c) If economic, social, or other conditions make it infeasible to mitigate one or more significant effects on the environment of a project, the project may nonetheless be carried out or approved at the discretion of a public agency if the project is otherwise permissible under applicable laws and regulations.
(d) In applying the policies of subdivisions (b) and (c) to individual projects, the responsibility of the lead agency shall differ from that of a responsible agency. The lead agency shall be responsible for considering the effects, both individual and collective, of all activities involved in a project. A responsible agency shall be responsible for considering only the effects of those activities involved in a project which it is required by law to carry out or approve. This subdivision applies only to decisions by a public agency to carry out or approve a project and does not otherwise affect the scope of the comments that the public agency may wish to make pursuant to Section 21104 or 21153.
(e) To provide more meaningful public disclosure, reduce the time and cost required to prepare an environmental impact report, and focus on potentially significant effects on the environment of a proposed project, lead agencies shall, in accordance with Section 21100, focus the discussion in the environmental impact report on those potential effects on the environment of a proposed project which the lead agency has determined are or may be significant. Lead agencies may limit discussion on other effects to a brief explanation as to why those effects are not potentially significant.

 

 

21003. Planning and environmental review procedures; documents; reports; data base; administration of process


The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that:
(a) Local agencies integrate the requirements of this division with planning and environmental review procedures otherwise required by law or by local practice so that all those procedures, to the maximum feasible extent, run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
(b) Documents prepared pursuant to this division be organized and written in a manner that will be meaningful and useful to decisionmakers and to the public.
(c) Environmental impact reports omit unnecessary descriptions of projects and emphasize feasible mitigation measures and feasible alternatives to projects.
(d) Information developed in individual environmental impact reports be incorporated into a data base which can be used to reduce delay and duplication in preparation of subsequent environmental impact reports.
(e) Information developed in environmental impact reports and negative declarations be incorporated into a data base which may be used to make subsequent or supplemental environmental determinations.
(f) All persons and public agencies involved in the environmental review process be responsible for carrying out the process in the most efficient, expeditious manner in order to conserve the available financial, governmental, physical, and social resources with the objective that those resources may be better applied toward the mitigation of actual significant effects on the environment.

 

 

21003.1. Environmental effects of projects; comments from public and public agencies to lead agencies; availability of information


The Legislature further finds and declares it is the policy of the state that:
(a) Comments from the public and public agencies on the environmental effects of a project shall be made to lead agencies as soon as possible in the review of environmental documents, including, but not limited to, draft environmental impact reports and negative declarations, in order to allow the lead agencies to identify, at the earliest possible time in the environmental review process, potential significant effects of a project, alternatives, and mitigation measures which would substantially reduce the effects.
(b) Information relevant to the significant effects of a project, alternatives, and mitigation measures which substantially reduce the effects shall be made available as soon as possible by lead agencies, other public agencies, and interested persons and organizations.
(c) Nothing in subdivisions (a) or (b) reduces or otherwise limits public review or comment periods currently prescribed either by statute or in guidelines prepared and adopted pursuant to Section 21083 for environmental documents, including, but not limited to, draft environmental impact reports and negative declarations.

 

 

21004. Mitigating or avoiding a significant effect; powers of public agency


In mitigating or avoiding a significant effect of a project on the environment, a public agency may exercise only those express or implied powers provided by law other than this division. However, a public agency may use discretionary powers provided by such other law for the purpose of mitigating or avoiding a significant effect on the environment subject to the express or implied constraints or limitations that may be provided by law.

 

 

21005. Information disclosure provisions; noncompliance; presumption; findings


(a) The Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that noncompliance with the information disclosure provisions of this division which precludes relevant information from being presented to the public agency, or noncompliance with substantive requirements of this division, may constitute a prejudicial abuse of discretion within the meaning of Sections 21168 and 21168.5, regardless of whether a different outcome would have resulted if the public agency had complied with those provisions.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that, in undertaking judicial review pursuant to Sections 21168 and 21168.5, courts shall continue to follow the established principle that there is no presumption that error is prejudicial.
(c) It is further the intent of the Legislature that any court, which finds, or, in the process of reviewing a previous court finding, finds, that a public agency has taken an action without compliance with this division, shall specifically address each of the alleged grounds for noncompliance.

 

 

21006. Issuance of permits, licenses, certificates or other entitlements; waivers of sovereign immunity


The Legislature finds and declares that this division is an integral part of any public agency's decisionmaking process, including, but not limited to, the issuance of permits, licenses, certificates, or other entitlements required for activities undertaken pursuant to federal statutes containing specific waivers of sovereign immunity.