Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
The California Environmental Quality Act, known as "CEQA" (pronounced "see kwa") was enacted in 1970 to provide an opportunity for the public to fully participate in decisions that will affect a community's quality of life. CEQA empowers citizens and requires that most proposed projects — rezones, permits, developments, roads, etc. — consider environmental impacts and compensate or mitigate for them (although some projects are exempt from CEQA).
CEQA is not a magic bullet that stops all harmful projects, but it does guarantee public participation and a legal process. With strong community support, especially in the form of "comment letters," CEQA can be utilized as it was intended: to encourage public input on projects that affect those who live in the communities. The proposed Clover Valley development is a prime example of a project that has too many negative environmental impacts on the community; thus citizens plan to use CEQA to the fullest extent.
Below is a brief, overly simplified summary of the process. Clover Valley's situation is a bit more complicated than most, but in 2001, Clover Valley Foundation hired a good environmental law firm to comment. Expensive? Yes, but worth every penny.
How It Works
Once it is determined that there will be environmental impacts from a project, and that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be required, the first step is the "Notice of Preparation" (NOP). This is sometimes accompanied by a "public scoping" meeting (to "scope" the range of impacts). Citizens may express any and all concerns to the public agency in charge (the "lead" agency).
A Draft EIR (DEIR) is prepared, usually by a consulting firm. The DEIR describes the project and should contain all the impacts, studies, reports, and mitigation measures. Once it is "released," there is a public hearing, and generally the public is given a 45-day window to make comments. These comments form the foundation for the litigation. If this window of opportunity is missed, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to bring up issues of substance later.
All the public comments must be considered. The responses are then condensed into a Final EIR (FEIR) which is released, and another public hearing is scheduled. Again, the public has a comment period, but the die has been cast. The lead agency also prepares "Findings of Fact" and "Statement of Overriding Consideration."
Eventually, the FEIR goes before Planning Department and then the lead agency (for Clover Valley, it is Rocklin City Council) for a vote to approve ("certify") the EIR and the project, subject to the EIR restrictions and mitigation measures, or a vote to NOT approve it. Citizen input is critical again as they submit comments and speak to the adequacy of the FEIR, its considerations, and its mitigation measures.
If citizens feel the EIR should not have been approved, or that the mitigation measures are inadequate, then usually there is a 30-day window to challenge the approved EIR via a lawsuit.
The lawsuit is as strong as the comments. These all become a part of the "administrative record," which can become many volumes thick. If the issues are not in the administrative record, then usually they cannot be a part of the litigation.
Eventually, a court hearing is held, or a settlement agreement is worked out before the court date. In the case of the hearing, once the judge has rendered a decision, there is a 30-day window to appeal the decision.
The process Clover Valley is going through is similar to this, but a bit more complicated. As one can imagine, the process of protecting our environment is expensive and time consuming, but it is a small price to pay for quality of life for generations to come.
- The Web
- State of California info
- Use a search engine for: CEQA+California (over 200,000 sites)
- Go to any public library for samples of DEIR's and FEIR's where you can see the "boilerplate" nature of some and read sample letters submitted by others who have made comments
- Check out a book on the CEQA processes
- Go to any planning department counter and check out a DEIR or FEIR on a project
- Attend a public agency hearing in any area on another project to obtain a sense of the nature of the comments and arguments, or attend a court hearing on another project to hear where the legal issues are
- Stay tuned by checking this website at or call the City of Rocklin (916-625-5160) to ask where the process is
With your help and support, we can stop the destruction that is proposed in Clover Valley, one of the region's most beautiful, environmentally diverse mini-ecosystems. Let's draw the line at the boundaries of Clover Valley and save its wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitat, and prehistoric sites in perpetuity.
"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."