CEQA Anyone?

  • Posted on 27 March 2019
  • By Michelle Hsu, Angeles Chapter Water Committee Member

Photo: Dr. C. Tom Williams, PhD, Credit: C. Evelyn

On a sunny Saturday morning earlier in March, members of the Angeles Chapter gathered to learn about CEQA. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was passed in 1970, with the purpose of requiring state and local agencies to identify the environmental impacts their projects may cause, and what they’ll do to mitigate those impacts. It was meant to buffer the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), passed the year prior, as NEPA only applies to projects that receive federal funding, while CEQA applies to projects receiving state or local approval.

As a new Water Committee volunteer, it was my first time visiting the Sierra Club offices in the bustling heart of Koreatown, coincidentally right across the street from one of my favorite coffee shops, Caffe Bene.

I was introduced to several members of both the Environmental Justice and Water Committees, all of whom I’d only met via conference calls. It was great to finally place faces to names, and I had the opportunity to chat with a few folks about zoning as it relates to the environment, a topic that I hadn’t known much about before.

At the start of the workshop, we were introduced to Dr. Tom Williams, who possessed such an incredible breadth of knowledge and experience that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d revealed himself to be a real life Indiana Jones back in the day. He jovially reminded all of us that we were in a workshop, not a lecture, and encouraged us to ask questions at any moment...which we would prove there was plenty of, as the CEQA process is, at turns, vague and specific, but invariably complex.

Our task, essentially, is to ensure that projects comply by voicing concerns during the “public review” portion, with specific demands of why a project’s environmental impact review (EIR) may not be adequate.


Moving forward with this knowledge, committee members are armed with what types of information (or lack thereof) they should be aware of while reviewing an agency’s EIR. For example: all reports and information included in the reports must be made accessible and understandable to the public, meaning that if the document is not comprehensive enough, it needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Overall, it was an informative workshop that will no doubt prove to be useful in reviewing EIR reports for projects in the future. With this better understanding of CEQA, I, as I’m sure others are as well, look forward to making sure project standards remain stringent to the rules of CEQA, and minimize the potential environmental impacts that they may cause. 

I’m looking forward to broadening my knowledge with other workshops from the Water & EJ Committees.

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