Preparing a Combined EIS/EIR
CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines strongly encourage State and local agencies
to prepare a combined EIS/EIR (i.e., one document which satisfies both NEPA
and CEQA) for projects where time is of the essence (Section 21083.6, Guidelines
Section 15222). The NEPA regulations similarly encourage federal agencies
to cooperate with local agencies "to the fullest extent possible to
reduce duplication between NEPA and comparable State and local requirements,"
including the preparation of a joint document (40 CFR 1506.2). A joint document
cannot be prepared solely by a State or local agency, it must include direct
federal agency involvement (40 CFR 1506.2).
Preparing a combined EIS/EIR requires the close coordination and cooperation
of the involved federal, State, and local agencies. In many cases, the agencies
preparing the joint EIS/EIR will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) which formally establishes their roles and responsibilities in
the process. Appendix 2 contains
a model MOU for federal, State, and local agencies preparing a joint EIS/EIR.
CEQA Guidelines section 15110 enables the State or local agency to
waive the one-year time limit otherwise applicable to completion of an EIR.
This lengthened period may be reflected in the MOU.
Those places where a single local entity is responsible for base reuse planning
have a distinct advantage in the process. Coordination is simpler: the DoD
service has fewer local agencies to deal with; a single base reuse plan,
rather than competing individual plans, is agreed upon by the involved local
agencies; and the plan being examined in the EIS/EIR is relatively stable.
The process of preparing an EIS/EIR proceeds most efficiently when the plan
for reuse is well-defined from the beginning and not subject to change during
environmental review. Obviously, this reuse plan cannot describe in detail
all anticipated projects, particularly if it is prepared early in the closure
and reuse process. What it should do is establish the general land use objectives
and policies which will be the foundation for later, more detailed, project-specific
The more specific the reuse plan, the easier it may be to use its EIS/EIR
as the basis for environmental review of later projects which occur pursuant
to that plan. The ability of an EIS/EIR to address later projects with a
minimum of additional environmental review hinges on meeting the procedural,
as well as substantive requirements of CEQA. The local agency should take
it upon itself to ensure that the EIS, in process and content, will meet
CEQA requirements. For example, CEQA's stricter notice requirements must
be complied with in addition to the requirements under NEPA.
The following chronology generally identifies those parts of the EIS and
NEPA process which may need attention in order to meet CEQA standards, or
which should be highlighted to illustrate their CEQA compliance, and suggests
Notice of Intent (NOI):
The NOI performs the same function as CEQA's "Notice of Preparation"
(NOP). The NOI should be supplemented with a summary of the probable environmental
impacts of the project in order to meet the standards for NOP content under
CEQA Guidelines Section 15082.
NEPA regulations require the federal agency to diligently pursue public
involvement in the NOI. This includes direct notice to State and local responsible
and trustee agencies as otherwise required under CEQA. The local agency
may provide the federal agency a list of responsible and trustee agencies
and their addresses to facilitate this notice.
Scoping allows interested agencies the opportunity to comment on the project's
potential effects and help focus the contents of the EIS/EIR. NEPA doesn't
establish a specific length of time for the scoping process. This period
must be at least 30 days, as provided for the review of an NOP under CEQA
Guidelines Section 15082.
Notice of Availability (NOA):
This corresponds to the "Notice of Completion" required under
the CEQA Guidelines. The NOA must be filed with the State Clearinghouse
and an appropriate number of copies of the draft EIS/EIR must accompany
it for circulation to State agencies. A copy must also be posted in the
office of the County Clerk. The draft EIS/EIR must be available for public
review for at least 45 days, as provided under Section 21091, and public
notice of that fact must be given pursuant to Section 21092. NEPA regulations
also require a 45-day review period (40 CFR 1506.10).
This serves as the draft EIR. The local agency should review the draft EIS/EIR
to ensure that it meets CEQA standards before it is released for review.
This can include examining the specific mitigation measures identified for
the project and the EIS/EIR's discussion of the project's growth-inducing
impacts, if any. The local agency may attach a cross-reference to the draft
EIS/EIR to enable reviewers to locate the pertinent discussions required
In order to comply with CEQA, the local agency should highlight the responses
to comments, attaching additional pages if necessary to describe them. Further,
the local agency should check the FEIS/EIR to ensure that mitigation measures
and any growth-inducing impacts relative to the project are specifically
Distribution of the Final EIS:
NEPA requires the federal lead agency to file a second NOA with the EPA
and to distribute the final EIS/EIR to interested agencies, groups, and
individuals at least 30 days prior to acting on the disposal and reuse plan
(40 CFR 1506.10). CEQA does not have a corresponding requirement for circulating
a final EIR. However, the CEQA lead agency must send to each commenting
agency a proposed response to that agency's comment.
After approval of the disposal and reuse plan by the DoD agency, the local
agency should file a Notice of Determination (NOD) for the EIS/EIR with
the county clerk and the State Clearinghouse. This initiates CEQA's 30-day
statute of limitations for legal challenges to an EIR.
Certification and Findings:
Later, at such time as it uses the EIS/EIR, the local agency must certify
the document pursuant to Guidelines Section 15090 and make the findings
and statement of overriding considerations required under Guidelines
Sections 15091 and 15093, respectively. Certification is the agency's
voucher as to the CEQA adequacy of the EIS and its formal expression that
the decisionmaking body has reviewed and considered the information contained
in the EIS/EIR prior to approving the project. Pertinent mitigation measures
must be adopted by the local agency at that time. A mitigation monitoring
or reporting program must also be adopted (Section 21081.6).
An NOD must be filed within 5 days of the agency's action (Section 21152).
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the EIS Process
State of California
Governor's Office of Planning and Research
1400 Tenth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814