Government entities have a lot of red tape they have to clear before they can move forward with most of their projects, especially when it comes to real property. Whether its extending utility infrastructure, building new roads, or developing structures, governments often have to secure funding, accept and approve bids, and be open to public comments.
One major speed bump that can quickly derail an otherwise sound project is compliance issues with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. Under CEQA, governments have to perform in-depth analysis of the potential environmental impact of their projects and seek ways to mitigate those effects. The projects are subject to public scrutiny, too.
Much of this process is wrapped around the environmental impact report, often referred to as an EIR. These reports not only lay out the potential environmental impacts of a project, but also inform the public and the government of how those impacts will be minimized and reasonable alternatives to the proposed project. Once the public comments on the report, then the party leading the project is given some time to respond. Once those responses have been submitted, a final determination on the project’s viability is made.
Drafting the EIR, reviewing it, and analyzing it requires close attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the law and how it applies to the environmental impacts deemed a concern by the state. Developments involving real property often result in CEQA lawsuits, for a variety of reasons. The law is pretty broad in scope, which leaves a lot open to interpretation. Additionally, there isn’t a lot of clarity as to the threshold impacts that can render a project untenable.
So what does this mean for you? It means that if you are proposing or objecting to a project that has significant environmental concerns, then you need to know how to navigate this complicated area of the law with confidence and precision. Fortunately, competent legal professionals stand ready to help.