CEQA Glossary: Key Terms & Definitions for Developers and Consultants

CEQA Key Terms & Definitions

Alternatives Analysis: A CEQA requirement that mandates agencies consider alternatives to a proposed project that could reduce or eliminate significant environmental impacts (California Public Resources Code § 21002).

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): A state law that requires state and local agencies to identify and mitigate significant environmental impacts of their actions, including approval of development projects and adoption of land use plans (Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21000 et seq.).

Categorical Exemption: A type of exemption from CEQA for projects that fall within specific categories determined not to have a significant effect on the environment (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, §§ 15300-15333).

CEQA Guidelines: Regulations that interpret and implement CEQA, found in Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, Division 6, Chapter 3, Sections 15000-15387.

Cumulative Impact: The incremental impact of a project when added to other closely related past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15355).

Discretionary Approval: A decision by a governmental agency that requires the exercise of judgment or deliberation, as opposed to a ministerial approval (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15357).

Environmental Impact Report (EIR): A detailed document prepared under CEQA to analyze the significant environmental effects of a proposed project, identify alternatives, and disclose possible ways to reduce or avoid environmental damage (Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21061).

Environmental Impact: A substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in the environment, including direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15358).

Feasible: Capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, legal, social, and technological factors (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15364).

Initial Study: A preliminary analysis prepared by the lead agency to determine whether an EIR or a Negative Declaration must be prepared, or to identify the significant environmental effects to be analyzed in an EIR (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15365).

Lead Agency: The public agency with the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project and for preparing the CEQA document (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15367).

Ministerial Approval: A decision involving little or no personal judgment by the public agency as to the wisdom or manner of carrying out the project (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15369).

Mitigation: Measures that avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, or compensate for a significant environmental impact (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15370).

Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP): A program adopted by the lead agency to ensure compliance with mitigation measures during project implementation (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15097).

Negative Declaration: A written statement by the lead agency briefly describing the reasons that a proposed project will not have a significant effect on the environment and does not require the preparation of an EIR (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15371).

Notice of Determination (NOD): A notice filed by the lead agency after deciding to carry out or approve a project for which an EIR has been prepared, stating whether the project will have a significant effect on the environment (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15373).

Notice of Exemption (NOE): A notice filed by the lead agency after deciding that a project is exempt from CEQA (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15374).

Notice of Preparation (NOP): A notice sent by the lead agency to notify responsible agencies, trustee agencies, and involved federal agencies that the lead agency plans to prepare an EIR for the project (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15375).

Project: The whole of an action that has a potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15378).

Responsible Agency: A public agency that proposes to carry out or approve a project for which the lead agency is preparing or has prepared an EIR or Negative Declaration (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15381).

Scoping: The process of determining the scope, focus, and content of an EIR (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15083).

Significant Effect: A substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by a project, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15382).

Statutory Exemption: An exemption from CEQA explicitly provided by the California Legislature (Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.01-21080.07).

Substantial Evidence: Enough relevant information and reasonable inferences from this information that a fair argument can be made to support a conclusion, even though other conclusions might also be reached (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15384).

Tiering: The coverage of general matters in broader EIRs with subsequent narrower EIRs or site-specific EIRs incorporating by reference the general discussions and concentrating solely on the issues specific to the later project (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15385).

Trustee Agency: A state agency having jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by a project which are held in trust for the people of the State of California (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 15386).

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT): The amount and distance of automobile travel attributable to a project, used as the primary metric for evaluating transportation impacts under CEQA since the adoption of Senate Bill 743 (SB 743) in 2013.

Keep up with the latest

A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the . However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.