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California SWRCB State Environmental Review Process (9-CA-b)

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the state legislation governing environmental protection issues in California. The CEQA process is similar to the federal NEPA process. However, unlike the federal environmental policy process, California may halt a project that is not advantageous for the environment and human health.


In California, it is a potential timesaver to use federal NEPA documents for the state environmental analysis. CEQA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s NEPA Regulations encourage state agencies (such as the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)) and federal agencies (such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to cooperate in an effort to reduce duplication in the CEQA and NEPA processes. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21083.7; 40 CFR 1506.2. CEQA recommends that lead agencies rely on a Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) “whenever possible,” provided the EIS satisfies the requirements of CEQA. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21083.7.

Under CEQA, every development permit is assigned a “lead agency” to coordinate the environmental review among all other state or local agencies that become “responsible” or “trustee” agencies. The lead agency prepares the environmental documents under the CEQA process. The other responsible or trustee agencies must consider the documents prepared by the lead agency and are not to prepare their own. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21067.

In California, the SWRCB acts as the State’s lead agency for most hydropower projects although, in some cases, cities, municipal utility districts and irrigation districts have served as the lead agency responsible for producing environmental documents. When preparing a joint EIS/EIR for a hydropower project, the SWRCB and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) act as joint lead agencies. CFR 1506.2(c).

The CEQA process runs concurrently to the permit process that triggered the CEQA process. All the CEQA permitting phases should occur close in time with the triggering permit process. There are generally three phases to the permit process that triggered CEQA: pre-application, application, and review. During the pre-application phase (which includes consultation, environmental scoping, study planning, and submittal of and commenting on the developer’s preliminary licensing proposal), the developer is to identify the appropriate agencies with a stake in the permitting process as well as collect as much background information as possible. In California, developers may request early pre-application conferences to discuss the rules and regulations associated with the proposed hydropower project. By the end of the pre-application process, the developer should have a clear understanding of the degree of environmental analysis required for the project as well as the number of permitting agencies involved in the project. See 14 CCR § 15060.5; Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

During the application phase, the developer begins filing the necessary environmental permit applications with the appropriate permitting agencies. As the lead agency for CEQA, the SWRCB is responsible for coordinating all the environmental permits and initiating the CEQA process. 2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, article 4.

The timelines assigned to permit consideration under CEQA depend upon whether the developer seeks to use the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP), the Traditional Licensing Process (TLP), or the Alternative Licensing Process (ALP). For projects proceedings under the ILP, FERC and the SWRCB will adhere to the regulatory deadlines specified in the Commission’s ILP regulations. For projects proceeding under the TLP, FERC and the SWRCB will work together to develop a mutually agreeable schedule. In the case of a project proceeding under the ALP, FERC and the SWRCB will develop a schedule with input from stakeholders in accordance with FERC’s ALP regulations (18 CFR 4.34(i)(3)(ii)). Memorandum of Understanding 2013.


SWRCB State Environmental Review Process Process

9-CA-b.1 – Initiate Consultation

The CEQA review process begins when the developer:

  1. Files an application for water quality certification;
  2. Files a notice of intent to seek a FERC license, pursuant to 18 CFR 5.5 or 18 CFR 16.6; or
  3. Requests consultation prior to filing an application for a FERC license, pursuant to 18 CFR 4.38.

Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

Within ninety (90) days of receiving the developer’s application, notice of intent, or consultation request, the SWRCB initiates consultation with the developer and a consultant regarding the CEQA process. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9.CA-b.2 – MOU for CEQA Document

The SWRCB works with the developer and the consultant to formulate a three-party memorandum of understanding between the parties for the development of the CEQA document. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9-CA-b.3 - Does a Categorical or Statutory Exemption Apply?

If the project qualifies for a categorical or statutory exemption (as described below), CEQA does not require that the project go through the CEQA process.

CEQA regulations list 33 classes of activities that warrant categorical exemptions from CEQA because the Secretary for Resources has found that they do not have a significant effect on the environment. This list includes, among other classes of activities:

  • Small hydroelectric projects at existing facilities;
  • Ministerial projects;
  • Minor alterations to land;
  • Minor alternations in land use limitations;
  • Information collection;
  • Inspections;
  • Loans;
  • Accessory structures;
  • Minor land divisions;
  • Open space contracts or easements;
  • Annexations of existing facilities and lots for exempt facilities;
  • Leasing new facilities;
  • Cogeneration projects at existing facilities;
  • Minor actions to prevent, minimize, stabilize, mitigate, or eliminate the release or threat of release of hazardous waste or hazardous substances; and
  • Historical Resource Restoration/Rehabilitation;

Categorical exemptions are based on a finding by the Secretary for Resources that the classes of projects included in the exemption do not have a significant impact on the environment. 14 CCR § 15354; 14 CRR §§ 15300-15333.

Classes of projects statutorily exempted from CEQA by the California Legislature include, but are not limited to,:

  • Ongoing projects;
  • Feasibility and planning studies;
  • Discharge requirements;
  • Coastal plans and programs;
  • Ministerial projects;
  • Disapproved projects;
  • Air quality permits;
  • Notification of discovery of Native American burial sites; and
  • Any activity or approval necessary for or incidental to project funding by the Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Panel.

14 CRR §§ 15260-15285.

9-CA-b.4 - File a Notice of Exemption

In order to claim the project activity is exempt (statutorily or categorically) from the CEQA process, the SWRCB must file a notice of exemption. A notice of exemption is a brief notice that may be filed by the SWRCB after it has determined that the proposed project is exempt from the CEQA process. 14 CCR § 15062.

9-CA-b.5 to 9-CA-b.6 - Determine Appropriate Level of Environmental Review

For all hydropower projects not exempt from the CEQA process, the SWRCB must conduct an Initial Study (IS) to determine whether preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is necessary. 2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines § 15063. The review processes used to determine whether the proposed project will cause a significant impact on the environment are similar to those found in the On-Site Evaluation Process Overview Flowchart. The SWRCB will prepare documents determining whether the proposed project will cause a significant impact on issues such as the local flora and fauna, aesthetic resources, air quality, and cultural resources. The SWRCB normally relies on an environmental checklist form found in 2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, Appendix G.

On-Site Evaluation: 10


Also, note that SWRCB must determine whether the proposed project will cause significant impact on tribal cultural resources as defined in Cal. Pub. Res. Code§ 21074. Cal. Pub. Res. Code §21080.3.1(b). A lead agency “may choose to contact the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) at the beginning of the CEQA process (i.e. concurrently with the Initial Study) to identify the California Native American tribes and the tribal contact person(s) if it wishes to proactively initiate consultation with tribes.” 2015 Update for the CEQA Deskbook, at p. 6.

9-CA-b.7 to 9-CA-b.9 – Will SWRCB and FERC Conduct a Joint IS/EA?

CEQA and NEPA largely require the same process for determining the need for an EIR or EIS. The SWRCB and FERC may conduct a joint IS/EA in order to determine the potential significance of a project’s environmental impacts. On a case-specific basis, FERC and the SWRCB will attempt to identify projects where a cooperative environmental document can be issued that satisfies, to the extent possible, the legal requirements of NEPA and CEQA, and otherwise meets FERD’s and SWRCB’s needs. NEPA and CEQA: Integrating Federal and State Environmental Reviews; Memorandum of Understanding 2013. If FERC and the SWRCB identify such projects, they will develop a case-specific letter of understanding that outlines the cooperative post-application filing procedures and schedules including procedures and schedules including procedures associated with FERC’s exparte rules FERC and the SWRCB will consider procedures used by other federal and state agencies to prepare joint environmental documents. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

However, the SWRCB must reach its own conclusions about the level of environmental review and the environmental document each project requires. NEPA and CEQA: Integrating Federal and State Environmental Reviews. Under Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6370 et seq., if lands contain significant environmental value, the SWRCB must determine whether the project is consistent with the environmental values of the land. The guidelines require a determination of the significance of the environmental effects caused by the project, the impacts from greenhouse gas emissions, and the significance of impacts to archaeological and historical resources.

Under 14 CCR § 15063, the SWRCB is not required to conduct an IS if the project clearly requires an EIR. In preparing an IS, the SWRCB must consider all phases of the project planning, implementation, and operation. The SWRCB may use FERC’s environmental assessment or a similar analysis prepared by FERC pursuant to NEPA. The IS may also rely on an expert's opinion, but is not intended to be as detailed as an EIR.

The contents of the IS are set out in the 2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines and include:

  • The description and location of the project;
  • Identification of the environmental setting;
  • Identification of environmental effects by use of the checklist;
  • A discussion of mitigation methods;
  • A discussion of consistency with existing zoning, plans, and other land use controls; and
  • Identification of the participants in the IS.

14 CCR § 15063.


To view FERC’s process for conducting an EA under NEPA, go to

FERC - NEPA Process:
9-FD-i

9-CA-b.10 — Is a Native American Tribal Consultation Required?

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.1 requires SWRCB to consult with a California Native American tribe, prior to the release of a negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration or an environmental impact report (EIR) for a project, if:

  • The California Native American tribe requested to the lead agency, in writing, to be informed by SWRCB through formal notification of proposed projects in the geographic area that is traditionally and culturally affiliated with the tribe; and
  • The California Native tribe responds, in writing, within thirty (30) days of receipt of the formal notification, and requests the consultation.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.1.

9-CA-b.11 to 9-CA-b.12 — Provide Notice to Native Tribe Representative

Within fourteen (14) days of determining that an application for a project is complete or a decision by a public agency to undertake a project, SWRCB must provide formal notification to the designated contact of, or a tribal representative of, traditionally and culturally affiliated California Native tribes that have requested notice. SWRCB must publish notice in writing including:

  • A brief description of the proposed project and its location;
  • The lead agency (SWRCB) contact information; and
  • A notification that the California Native American tribe has thirty (30) days to request consultation pursuant to Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.1.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.1(d).

SWRCB must begin the consultation process within thirty (30) days of receiving a California Native American tribe’s request for consultation. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.1 (e).

If the California Native American tribe requests consultation regarding alternatives to the project, recommended mitigation measures, or significant effects, the consultation must include those topics. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.2. The consultation may include discussion concerning the type of environmental review necessary, the significance of tribal cultural resources, the significance of the project’s impacts on the tribal cultural resources, and if necessary, project alternatives or the appropriate measures for preservation or mitigation that the California Native American tribe may recommend to the lead agency. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.3.2.

9-CA-b.13 - Is There Potential for Significant Environmental Impacts?

The SWRCB is required to consult with all responsible agencies and trustee agencies responsible for the resources affected. During or immediately following the preparation of the IS or joint IS/EA, the SWRCB may consult with the developer to determine if the developer is willing to modify the project to reduce or avoid significant effects identified.

If the SWRCB determines there is substantial evidence of a significant effect on the environment, the SWRCB shall do one of the following:

  1. Prepare an EIR (or cooperate with FERC to prepare a joint EIR/EIS);
  2. Use a previously prepared EIR;
  3. Determine a master EIR should be used for the entire project; or
  4. Prepare a Negative Declaration if there is no substantial evidence that the project or any aspects may cause a significant effect on the environment.

2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, page 127.

9-CA-b.14 - Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration

When the IS or joint IS/EA shows that there is no substantial evidence, in light of the whole record, that the project may have a significant effect on the environment or that there are potentially significant effects that have been avoided by revision, the SWRCB may issue a negative declaration or a mitigated declaration..

A negative declaration prepared for public review must include:

  • A brief description of the project, including a commonly used name for the project;
  • The location of the project, preferably shown on a map, and the name of the project proponent;
  • A proposed finding that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment;
  • An attached copy of the IS documenting reasons to support the finding; and
  • Mitigation measures, if any, included in the project to avoid potentially significant effects.

14 CCR § 15070.

Native American Tribe Consultation Requirements (If Applicable)

Parties may propose mitigation measures, including but not limited to, those recommended in Cal. Publ. Res. Code § 210843, capable of avoiding or substantially lessening potential significant impacts to the tribal cultural resources or alternatives that would avoid significant impacts to a tribal cultural resource. Cal. Publ. Res. Code § 21084.3.1.

9-CA-b.15 – Provide Notice of Proposed Declaration

The SWRCB provides notice of intent to adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration to the public, responsible agencies, trustee agencies and the county clerk of each county within which the proposed project is located early enough to allow the public and agencies the appropriate amount of time to review the notice). Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091.

9-CA-b.16 – Comment on Proposed Declaration

The public and the responsible agencies may comment on the negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration. During this time, any issues concerning the SWRCB’s decision may be brought to attention. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091.

9-CA-b.17 – Review and Respond to Comments

Once the public and responsible agencies have had the opportunity to comment on the published negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration, the SWRCB must review and respond to any comments submitted. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091.

9-CA-b.18 - Adopt Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration

The decision-making body of the SWRCB makes the final decision to adopt the negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration. The decision is made after reviewing the recommendation and the public comments. The SWRCB must establish a monitoring program to ensure the required mitigation measures are enforced.

The decision to adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration may be appealed to the SWRCB's elected decision-making body. 14 CCR § 15074(f).

Native American Tribe Consultation Requirements (If Applicable)

Note, SWRCB may not “certify an EIR or adopt a mitigated negative declaration for a project with a significant impact on an identified cultural resource” unless:

Further SWRCB must consider feasible mitigation pursuant to Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21084.3, if:

  • The mitigation measures recommended by the staff of the lead agency as a result of Native American tribe consultation process are not included in the environmental document; or
  • There are no agreed upon mitigation measures at the conclusion of the consultation; or
  • The consultation does not occur, and if substantial evidence demonstrates that a project will cause a significant effect to a tribal cultural resource.

9-CA-b.19 - Notice of Determination

After deciding to move forward with the project, the SWRCB must file a notice of determination (NOD). A notice of determination is required for each phase of the project that requires discretionary approval.

The contents of the NOD should include:

  • Identification of the project including the project title as identified on the proposed negative declaration, its location, and the State Clearinghouse identification number;
  • A brief description of the project;
  • The agency's name, the applicant's name, and the date on which the SWRCB approved the project;
  • The determination of the SWRCB that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment;
  • A statement that a negative declaration or a mitigated negative declaration was adopted pursuant to the provisions of CEQA;
  • A statement indicating whether mitigation measures were made a condition of the approval of the project and whether a mitigation plan was adopted; and
  • The address where a copy of the negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration may be examined.

14 CCR § 15094.

9-CA-b.20 - Notice of Preparation of Environmental Document

Once the SWRCB has decided that an environmental document will need to be prepared, or that the proposed project may have significant impacts on the environment, the SWRCB must issue notice to all interested parties. The notice must provide all interested parties with a description of the proposed project and the potential environmental impacts that the project may cause. Once the interested parties have received notice that an environmental document will be prepared, they will have 30 days to respond to the SWRCB with any environmental information. 14 CCR § 15082.

Native American Tribe Consultation Requirements (If Applicable)

SWRCB must recommend for inclusion in the environmental document and in an adopted mitigation monitoring and reporting program, any mitigation measures agreed upon in the consultation, pursuant to CPRC § 21080.3.2, if determined to avoid or lessen the impact on the cultural significant tribal resource. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21082.3.

If a project may have a significant impact on a tribal cultural resource, SWRCB’s environmental document must discuss both of the following:

  • Whether the proposed project has a significant impact on a tribal cultural resource;
  • Whether feasible alternatives or mitigation measures, including those measures may be agreed to, avoid or substantially lessen the impact on the identified tribal cultural resource.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21082.3.

9-CA-b.21 - Conduct Scoping

Once the SWRCB has notified all interested parties of the SWRCB’s intent to prepare an environmental document, the SWRCB will cooperate with FERC to commence the scoping process. Scoping is an early and open process designed to determine the scope of issues to be addressed and the significant issues related to the proposed action. 40 CFR 1501.7(a)(3).

The SWRCB participates in FERC’s environmental scoping process. Memorandum of Understanding 2013. The SWRCB consults with FERC in order to ensure that the joint scoping meeting complies with the requirements of both FERC’s regulations (18 CFR 5.) and the CEQA Guidelines (Cal. Code Regs., title 14, § 15000 et seq.). Additionally, as part of the joint scoping meeting(s), the SWRCB and FERC discuss and attempt to reach consensus on the proposed geographic scope of studies. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

FERC, the SWRCB, a responsible agency, a trustee agency, the Office of Planning and Research, or the developer may request one or more meetings between representatives of the agencies involved to assist FERC and the SWRCB in determining the scope and content of the environmental information that FERC or the SWRCB may require. 14 CCR § 15082(b).

For projects of statewide, regional, or area-wide significance, the lead agency must conduct at least one scoping meeting. A scoping meeting held pursuant to NEPA in the city or county within which the project is located satisfies this requirement if the lead agency meets the notice requirements. 14 CCR § 15082(c)(1).

The SWRCB must also call at least one scoping meeting for a proposed project that may affect highways or other facilities under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) if the meeting is requested by the department. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21083.9.

CEQA requires that the SWRCB provide notice of the scoping meeting to all of the following:

  • Any county or city that borders on a county or city within which the project is located, unless otherwise designated annually by agreement between the SWRCB and the county or city;
  • Any responsible agency;
  • Any public agency that has jurisdiction by law with respect to the project; and
  • Any organization or individual who has filed a written request for the notice.

14 CCR § 15082(c)(2).

NEPA also requires that FERC invite other affected federal, state, and local agencies, any Indian tribe, the developer, and other interested persons to participate in the scoping meeting(s). 40 CFR 1501.7(a)(1).

9-CA-b.22 - Issue Clearinghouse Number

For complex projects, the SWRCB must send the issue to the State Clearinghouse to ensure the wide range of state and local interests are coordinated appropriately. The State Clearinghouse is responsible for connecting the SWRCB to all appropriate responsible agencies for coordination and consultation.

The State Clearinghouse Number (SCH #) is a ten-digit number which is unique to each project reviewed through the State Clearinghouse. The sequencing of the numbers has evolved through the years. As of January 1, 2000, a new sequencing went into effect. The first four digits indicate the year in which the document was processed by the State Clearinghouse (or first processed in the case of projects that circulate through the State Clearinghouse several times). The next two digits indicate the month in which the document was processed. The next digit indicates the geographic location of the project (i.e. "region"). The last three digits indicate the sequence in which the document was processed for that month. State Clearinghouse Handbook.

9-CA-b.23 to 9-CA-b.24 – Do SWRCB and FERC Agree on Geographic Scope of Studies?

If there is no consensus on the project’s scope of effects, then the SWRCB and FERC will notify the developer and the SWRCB proceeds separately, using its own demographic scope of studies to develop an independent study plan. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9-CA-b.25 - Develop Joint Study Plan

If the SWRCB and FERC agree on the project’s scope of effects, the SWRCB and FERC will work together to develop a study plan meeting both the SWRCB’s needs for issuing a water quality certification and FERC’s needs for issuing the project license. However, FERC is not obligated to require studies proposed by the SWRCB. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9-CA-b.26 to 9-CA-b.27 – Has FERC Excluded or Modified Any Studies Required By SWRCB?

If FERC excludes or modifies any studies identified by the SWRCB as necessary for water quality certification, including any studies necessary for CEQA compliance, the SWRCB may (within 35 days) issue a letter to the developer identifying any additional studies that will be required. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9-CA-b.28 - Is Creation of a Joint EIR/EIS Appropriate?

Once the scoping period has ended and the necessary studies are complete, the SWRCB and FERC evaluate the project to determine whether a cooperative environmental document (EIR/EIS) can be issued that satisfies, to the extent possible, the legal requirements of NEPA and CEQA and otherwise meet FERC’s requirements for issuing a FERC license and the SWRCB’s requirements for issuing a water quality certification. Memorandum of Understanding 2013.

9-CA-b.29 – Letter of Understanding and Draft EIR/EIS

If the SWRCB and FERC determine that the issuance of a cooperative environmental document is appropriate, the SWRCB and FERC will develop a letter of understanding outlining the cooperative procedures and schedules that governs the preparation of the joint environmental documents. Memorandum of Understanding 2013. The SWRCB and FERC then issue a joint EIR/EIS which the agencies circulate among the concerned agencies and the public.

9-CA-b.30 - Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

If the SWRCB and FERC determine that a cooperative environmental document is not appropriate, the SWRCB prepares a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to circulate among the concerned agencies, the public, and relevant Native American Tribe, if necessary. A draft EIR may be prepared by the SWRCB, a contractor, the developer or the developer's consultant, or a third party through a memorandum of understanding with the developer. A previously prepared EIR may also be used as a draft EIR if it has been amended or revised for the current proposed project. Regardless of who prepares the draft EIR, the document must reflect the independent judgment of the SWRCB. 14 CCR § 15084.

Upon completion of the draft EIR or joint EIR/EIS (environmental document), a notice of completing must be filed with the Office of Planning and Research. If the environmental document will be reviewed through the State Clearinghouse, the notice of completion cover form will serve as the notice of completion. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091.

9-CA-b.31 – Provide Notice of Draft Environmental Document

Once the draft environmental document has been prepared, the SWRCB (or FERC) will publish the draft and provide notice of an open comment period to the public, responsible agencies, and any other interested party. Public notice is published at least once in a newspaper in the affected area; a notice should be published at the site and a direct mailing to owners and occupants of adjacent parcels.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091; CFR 1506.6(b).

9-CA-b.32 – Comment on Draft Environmental Document

The comment period provides an opportunity for any implicated federal, state, or local agencies authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards and any other interested party (other than FERC and the SWRCB) to express concerns about the proposed project. The public review period may not be less than 30 days. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21091; 40 CFR 1503.1(a)(2).

9-CA-b.33 – Review and Respond to Public and Agency Comments

The SWRCB (and FERC, if a joint draft EIR/EIS is issued) must provide written comments in response to public and agency concerns before certifying an environmental document. The written response must describe the reasons for the SWRCB’s decisions and must address the disposition of each significant environmental issue that is raised during the open comment period. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21092.5.

9-CA-b.34 - Final Environmental Document

A final environmental document must be completed before project approval.

Article 9 of the CEQA Guidelines governs the contents of the environmental document. The required elements include:

  • Informational document;
  • Table of Contents;
  • Summary;
  • Project description;
  • Environmental setting;
  • Consideration and discussion of environmental impacts;
  • Consideration and discussion of significant environmental impacts;
  • Consideration and discussion of mitigation measures proposed to minimize significant effects;
  • Consideration and discussion of alternatives to the proposed project;
  • Effects not found to be significant;
  • Organizations and persons consulted;
  • Discussion of cumulative impacts; and
  • Economic and social effects.

The final environmental document must contain:

  • The draft environmental document, comments and recommendations received on the draft environmental document (summary or verbatim);
  • List of persons, organizations and public agencies commenting on the draft environmental document; and
  • Responses of the SWRCB to significant environmental points raised in the review and consultation process.

2014 CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, Article 9.

14 CCR § 15120.

9-CA-b.35 - Certify Final Environmental Document

The SWRCB prepares and certifies a final environmental document. If the report shows that significant impact will be mitigated below the level of significance and social and economic concerns have been adequately addressed, the SWRCB may approve the project. The permit must be approved or denied within 6 months of certifying the final Environmental Document or within 3 months of adopting a declaration. 14 CCR § 15111.

Native American Tribe Consultation Requirements (If Applicable)

Note, SWRCB may not “certify an EIR or adopt a mitigated negative declaration for a project with a significant impact on an identified cultural resource” unless:

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21084.3.

9-CA-b.36 - Notice of Determination and Required Documents

In determining whether to approve a project, the SWRCB will look at any economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits, including region-wide or statewide environmental benefits that the project may produce. If these benefits outweigh the projects unavoidable environmental risks, the SWRCB may approve the project. The SWRCB must prepare a statement of overriding consideration if approving a project with unavoidable environmental risks. 14 CCR § 15093.

If the SWRCB has determined that the project must adopt mitigation measures to minimize adverse environmental impacts, the SWRCB must also adopt a monitoring program to ensure the implementation of those mitigation measures. 14 CCR § 15097.

Once the SWRCB has made a decision to approve the proposed project, the agency memorializes its decision in a Notice of Determination (NOD). The SWRCB must file a NOD within 5 days after deciding to approve a project. 14 CCR § 15094.

9-CA-b.37 to 9-CA-b.42 - Is the Lead Agency’s Approval Challenged?

The SWRCB’s determination may be challenged in court. Environmental litigation can take a great deal of time and resources. CEQA provides an unusually short statute of limitations (180 days) for challenging the approval of projects. Final environmental documents are presumed to comply with CEQA unless adjudged otherwise in a legal proceeding. The court will review the SWRCB’s determination for any abuse of discretion or a failure by the SWRCB to rely on substantial evidence in the making of the determination. If the court upholds the SWRCB’s determination, the challenging party may appeal the court’s ruling.

If the court does not uphold the SWRCB’s determination, the developer may not proceed with the proposed project. The developer may appeal the court’s decision to a higher court, or the developer may revise the project and submit the revised project back to the SWRCB for a new determination. If the proposed project is revised, the SWRCB must submit the revised project through the CEQA process again in order to determine any possible environmental impacts. 14 CCR § 15112.

9-CA-b.43 - Proceed with Project

If there is no legal challenge to the NOD, the developer may proceed with the project.




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