Governor Issues Order Suspending CEQA Timeframes and Setting Requirements for Public Availability of CEQA Documents
In our previous alert on April 15, 2020, we reported on the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research’s guidance and information regarding the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and COVID-19. On April 22, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-54-20 with additional guidance, suspending a number of CEQA timeframes and setting requirements for the public availability of CEQA documents during this pandemic.
First, the Governor suspended, for a period of 60 days, the “public filing, posting, notice, and public access requirements set forth in Public Resources Code sections 21092.3 and 21152, and California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 15062(c)(2) and (c)(4); 15072(d); 15075 (a),(d), and (e); 15087(d); and 15094(a), (d), and (e), for projects undergoing, or deemed exempt from, [CEQA] review.” The listed code sections and regulations cover a number of items, including notices of preparation, notices of availability, notices of intent, notices of determination and notices of exemption.
The suspension does not apply to provisions governing the time for public review.
Second, for project review continuing during the suspensions, the Governor’s order includes the following requirements for situations “where the lead agency, responsible agency, or project applicant would otherwise have been required to publicly post or file materials concerning the project with any county clerk, or otherwise make such materials available to the public”:
The lead agency, responsible agency, or project applicant (as applicable) must:
“a) Post such materials on the relevant agency’s or applicant’s public-facing website for the same period of time that physical posting would otherwise be required;
b) Submit all materials electronically to the State Clearinghouse CEQAnet Web Portal; and
c) Engage in outreach to any individuals and entities known by the lead agency, responsible agency, or project applicant to be parties interested in the project in the manner contemplated by the Public Resources Code sections 21100 et seq. and California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 15000 et seq.”
The Governor’s order also encourages lead agencies, responsible agencies, and project applicants “to pursue additional methods of public notice and outreach as appropriate for particular projects and communities.”
Finally, the Governor’s order also suspends for 60 days the timeframes “within which a California Native American tribe must request consultation and the lead agency must begin the consultation process relating to an Environmental Impact Report, Negative Declaration, or Mitigated Negative Declaration” under CEQA.