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California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), now more than 40 years old, is one of the state’s most important environmental laws. The Act establishes a state policy of sustainability: to “create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony to fulfill the social and economic requirements of present and future generations.”

 CEQA - Aerial view of a suburban neighborhood.

CEQA requires that state and local agencies disclose and evaluate the significant environmental impacts of proposed projects and adopt all feasible mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate those impacts.

The Attorney General, in her independent capacity, has a special role in overseeing and enforcing CEQA. Since the statute’s beginnings, the Attorney General has filed public comment letters alerting local agencies to potential violations of CEQA, filed and intervened in lawsuits, entered into settlements, and submitted “friend of the court” briefs in significant appellate cases.

In enforcing CEQA, Attorney General Harris focuses on the need to address those impacts that affect our most vulnerable residents – children, the elderly, and people who already are bearing an unfair share of pollution (see Environmental Justice) – and those impacts that will be particularly felt by our children and grandchildren (see Climate Change). The Attorney General's recent CEQA enforcement actions can be found on the Comment Letters and Litigation and Settlement pages.

For local governments, general plan updates provide many opportunities to tackle “big picture” problems like environmental justice and climate change – matters that are harder to address through project-by-project review. For more information, visit the CEQA and General Planning page.

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