By Andy R. Cassano, Nevada City Engineering
CEQA stands for the California Environmental Quality Act. The law is the single most important guardian of meaningful environmental protection. The law is also the single most discouraging aspect to private and public projects in California.
So we help our private and public sector clients navigate this law in the most efficient way possible. I think of CEQA as the “look before you leap law,” requiring decision makers implementing new projects to think things through before they hurry into new construction projects of any kind. Thought must be given to what kind of environmental damage could occur and mitigation steps must be identified to avoid or minimize potential impacts.
To local governments, CEQA is an important tool, giving them the authority, responsibility, and tools to avoid project impacts or even to turn down projects where they believe that the adverse impacts of a project cannot be mitigated or offset to reasonable levels.
CEQA requires a very regimented schedule of events with mandatory components. It’s important to our clients that these steps be completed appropriately and in a timely manner. There are specific limitations on the nature and scope of legal mitigation measures applied to a project, including:
1. Mitigations must be related to a physical impact. Mitigation is not required for purely socio-economic impacts.
2. Mitigation measures should be effective in reducing the actual impact of the project.
3. Mitigation measures should be within the controlling agency’s express or implied authority.
4. Mitigation measures must be reasonably connected to the potential impact of the project, containing what the courts have called “essential nexus.”
5. Mitigation measures must be roughly proportional to the magnitude of the impact.
6. Mitigation measures must not be prohibited by any existing statute.