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CEQA Terms

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) - California legislation that establishes environmental policy for the state. Established in 1970, it provides an interdisciplinary framework for state agencies to prevent environmental damage and contains "action-forcing" procedures to ensure that state agency decision-makers take environmental factors into account.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) - The detailed statement required by CEQA when an agency proposes a major public action significantly affecting the quality of the  environment.

Findings - Statutory requirement to ensure that the decision-making agency actually considers alternatives and mitigation measures (Public Resource Code, §21081, subdivision [a] ), (CEQA Guidelines, §15091, subdivision [a]; 15092). See also Statement of Overriding Considerations below.

Initial Study - The preliminary analysis that the lead agency prepares in order to determine whether to prepare a negative declaration or an EIR and, if necessary, to identify the impacts to be analyzed in the EIR (CEQA Guidelines, §15365). When the agency determines that an EIR is unnecessary, the study serves the purpose of providing documentation of the factual basis for concluding that a negative declaration will suffice (CEQA Guidelines, §15063, subdivision [C] [5] ).

Mitigated Negative Declaration - If an initial study reveals substantial evidence that significant environment effects might occur, the project proponent can modify the project so as to eliminate all such possible significant impacts or reduce them to a level of insignificance (Public Resource Code, §21064.5, CEQA Guidelines, §15073).

Mitigation Reporting and Implementation of Monitoring Program - When a public agency approves a mitigated negative declaration or adopts findings pursuant to Section 21081 of the Public Resources Code, the agency will adopt a reporting or monitoring program for the changes made to the project or conditions of project approval adopted, in order to mitigate or avoid significant effects on the environment. Applies to public agencies as well as lead agencies (Public Resources Code, §21081.6, subdivision [a][1] ).

Negative Declaration - A Negative Declaration prepared when, after completing an initial study, a lead agency determines that a project "would not have a significant effect on the environment"(Public Resource Code, §21080, subdivision [c] ).

Notice of Completion (NOC) - If the draft EIR will be reviewed through the State Review process handled by Office of Planning and Research's State Clearinghouse, a Notice of Completion must be submitted by the lead agency once the draft EIR is completed. The NOC must include a brief description of the project, its proposed location, an address where copies of the draft EIR are available, and a statement of the period during which comments to the draft EIR will be received (CEQA Guidelines, §15085, subdivision[b] ). Refer to Appendix C of the state CEQA Guidelines for a sample NOC form.

Notice of Determination (NOD) - A Notice of Determination is filed by the lead agency once it has decided to implement or approve a project for which it has approved a negative declaration(CEQA Guidelines,
§15075, subdivision [a] ), (Public Resources Code, §21108, subdivision [a], 21152, subdivision [a] ).

Project - The whole of an action that may result in either a direct or indirect physical change in the environment. "Project" is given a broad interpretation in order to maximize protection of the environment.

Public Notice - A notification to the public by the lead agency indicating that the draft EIR is available for review.

Response to Comments - In the final EIR, the lead agency must evaluate and respond to all the environmental comments that it receives on the draft EIR within the public review period. (Public Resource Code, §21091,subdivision [d] [ 2] [A] ). The response may take the form of a revision to the draft EIR or may be a seperate section in the final EIR (CEQA Guidelines, §15088, subdivision [c] ).

Significant Effect - A substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic and aesthetic significance (Public Resources Code, § 21068)(CEQA Guidelines, §15382).

Statement of Overriding Considerations - Provides an agency with a means to adopt a project with unmitigated significant environmental impacts. CEQA requires the decision-maker to balance the benefits of a proposed project which outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental effects, the adverse environmental risks when determining whether to approve the project. If the specific economic, legal, social, technological or other benefits of a proposed proejct outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental effects, the adverse environmental effects may be considered "acceptable."  (Public Resources Code, §21081, subdivision [B] ), (CEQA Guidelines, §15093, subdivision [a];15021, subdivision [d] ).

Thresholds of Significance -
That level at which the lead agency finds the effects of a project to be significant. Threshold of significance can be defined further as a quantitative or qualitative standard, or set of criteria, pursuant to which the significance of a given environmental effect may be determined.