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AB 819 Modernizes CEQA Guidelines to Promote Access to Project Information Online 

by Madison DiZinno

Published: August, 2021

Submission: August, 2021

 



The cornerstone of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is access to information. CEQA generally requires local and state government agencies ("lead agencies") overseeing proposed projects to prepare project-related documents assessing potential environmental impacts. These documents inform decision-makers and the public of the project's potential environmental impacts. Assembly Bill 819, signed by Governor Newsom on July 16, 2021, amends several provisions of the CEQA Guidelines to further promote public access to CEQA project documents online.


Beginning January 1, 2022, Lead Agencies will be required to:


  • Submit its notice of determination or exemption that an environmental impact report is required for a project by mail or by email to specified agencies (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21080.4);
  • Provide notice of preparation of an EIR or negative declaration or of determination by posting the notice on the agency's website, if the agency has one (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21092);
  • Post CEQA notices, including notices of preparation, notices of scoping meetings, notices of availability for review, notices of completion, and notices of determination (NOD) to the lead agency's website, if the agency has one (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21092.2.);
  • Post notices of preparation and notices of availability for review to the county clerk's website (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21092.3);
  • File state agency notices of determination with OPR to be made available on OPR's website for at least 12 months (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21108);
  • Electronically file local agency notices of determination with the county clerk, if that option is available by the clerk. County clerks will have the option of posting NODs to the clerk's website instead of physical posting (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21152);
  • Electronically file its notice of completion of an environmental document with OPR, rather than by hard copy submission (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21161);
  • Electronically submit its draft negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or EIR to the Governor's Office of Planning and Research's (OPR) State Clearing House and post the same on the agency's website, if the agency has one (Revised Pub. Resources Code, §§ 21082.1, 21091); and
  • Accept comments received on draft environmental impact reports, mitigated negative declarations, or negative declarations via email and treat them as equivalent to written comments (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21091).

Additionally, lead agencies will have the option to send notices of preparation of an EIR to OPR and relevant agencies by email, in addition to the existing certified mail or equivalent procedure options. Recipients of these notices may submit their responses by email as well. (Revised Pub. Resources Code, § 21080.4)


AB 819 was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Assembly Members Marc Levine (D-Marin County) and Devon Mathis (R-Visalia). Assembly Member Levine said in a prepared statement that "Modernizing CEQA has been politically challenging, but streamlining the filing process while increasing public access is something everyone can agree on." With these updates, AB 819 "brings CEQA into the 21st century and will make it easier for the public to understand and engage with project proponents and their government on the environmental impacts of projects across California."


 



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