After several extensions to prior Executive Orders, Governor Newsom’s June 11, 2021 Executive Order N-08-21 regarding the COVID-related conditional suspension of posting, filing, and notice requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), will end on September 30, 2021.
In our previous blog post, we reported on California Governor Gavin Newson's Executive Order (EO) N-54-20 suspending certain posting, filing, and notice requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for 60 days and allowing these requirements to be satisfied through electronic means to enable public access and involvement consistent with COVID-19 public health concerns. It was indefinitely extended in September 2020 by Executive Order (EO) N-80-20. (EO) N-80-20 extended the previous suspension of CEQA's requirements for filing specified notices with the county clerk and posting such notices in the county clerk's office.
On June 11, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order (EO) N-08-21 confirming September 30, 2021 as the end date for COVID-19 pandemic-related suspensions for the following:
1. deadlines for filing noticing and posting of CEQA documents with county clerk offices
2. tribal consultation deadline under CEQA
3. open meeting requirements
As we begin to return to a pre-pandemic world, it is important to understand the original CEQA guidelines and requirements that will apply once the suspension is lifted.
1. Requirements Regarding Posting Notices
Due to the pandemic and statewide social distancing orders, Executive Orders (EO) N-54-20 and N-80-20 offered alternative methods to meet certain filing, noticing, posting, and public access for CEQA documents with the county clerk offices. The previous executive orders suspended public noticing requirements for notices of preparation of and environmental impact report ("EIR"), negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, notices of availability, notices of determination, and notices of exemption required under CEQA.
Normally, the notices required pursuant to Sections 21080.4 and 21092 for an environmental impact report shall be posted in the office of the county clerk of each county in which the project will be located and shall remain posted for a period of 30 days. The notice required pursuant to Section 21092 for a negative declaration must be posted for at least 20 days, and for at least 30 days under certain circumstances. The country clerk shall post the notices within 24 hours of the receipt.
However, due to the statewide social distancing orders, Executive Order (EO) N-80-20 allowed agencies or project applicants to electronically post notices in lieu of physically posting. According to the new Executive Order (EO) N-08-21, these alternative requirements will no longer be in effect after September 30, 2021, which means CEQA's statutory requirements will be applicable to notices filed on or after October 1, 2021.
2. Requirements Regarding Native American Consultation
Executive Order (EO) N-08-21 ends the 60-day suspension of timeframes within which a California Native American tribe must request a consultation and the lead agency must begin the consultation process relating to an EIR, negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration under CEQA; however, the tribe and lead agency will receive the benefit of the extension, so long as the triggering event occurred on or before September 30, 2021.
3. Requirements Regarding Open Meetings
In March 2020, to facilitate government operations and ensure continued public participation during the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-25-20 and Executive Order (EO) N-29-20 waiving certain open meeting requirements (including but not limited to, the Bagley-Keene Act or the Brown Act). EO N-25-20 authorized state and local legislative bodies to hold open meetings via teleconferencing and waived certain noticing and legal requirements related to meetings.
Under these EOs, all requirements in both the Bagley-Keene Act and the Brown Act requiring the physical presence of members, the clerk, personnel of the body, or of the public for an open meeting were waived. Executive Order (EO) N-08-21 notifies public agencies that these accommodations and waivers for meetings will no longer be in effect after September 30, 2021. Accordingly, public agencies have until October 1, 2021 to transition back to fully compliant Brown Act meetings.
FirstCarbon Solutions [FCS], an ADEC Innovation, comprises over 100 individuals offering due diligence, technical analysis, planning, environmental compliance, permitting, and mitigation/monitoring services for public and private projects. FCS has more than 30 years of experience navigating the complexities of CEQA and securing project approvals. Our technical and legal teams are ready to provide assistance and guidance in moving your project forward. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help with your specific project requirements.