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CEQA, EIRs, and the “substantial impact”

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2020 | Firm News |

Environmental issues are huge when it comes to initiating any sort of construction in California. This is primarily due to limitations imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act. One of the biggest components of CEQA is the Environmental Impact Report, often referred to as an EIR.

The EIR is required to address a number of environmental issues and how a project impacts each of them. Amongst the environmental categories that must be addressed are:

  • Aesthetics
  • Agriculture
  • Air quality
  • Biology
  • Culture
  • Geology
  • Hydrology
  • Land use
  • Minerals
  • Noise recreation

In essence, the EIR is supposed to address whether there is a significant impact on the environment, including any of the categories identified above. A significant impact is deemed to exist if there is a substantial or potentially substantial negative change to the environment. This is a pretty broad definition, especially given the breadth of environmental categories that are protected under the statutory scheme.

Making matters even more challenging with CEQA cases is the fact that an EIR must be created any time there is a fair argument that significant impacts to the environment can occur if the project in question is to proceed forward. This requires the entity pursuing the project to be diligent in their consideration of the environmental impacts of the project and report them in the EIR accurately. If the issue is minimized in the report, then it may be deemed inadequate to comply with the law. This, in turn, can lead to litigation.

Complying with CEQA can take a lot of time and effort. However, those who fail to abide by the Act risk losing a lot of money trying to fund an effort that will have to be scraped or extensively reworked. Therefore, if you need assistance generating, reviewing, or analyzing an EIR, then you may want to think about working with an experienced attorney who knows how to successfully navigate the process to ensure that projects can reach their full potential.


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