California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (Per Dinah Bear, General Counsel, Council
on Environmental Quality)
"Funding assistance to states that is in a manner that leaves decision making
to the state, with no federal agency decision as to specific projects and no
further control over the use of the funds, does not trigger NEPA." She further
states, "The rationale for this is simple. The NEPA process is meant to
inform a federal agency's decision making; hence, if there is no federal decision
making, those requirements do not apply." She continues, "... the Endangered
Species Act is broader in that it covers any act, federal or otherwise, that
may affect a listed species."
Note: CEQA assessment does apply to all CAL FIRE projects undertaken with National
Fire Plan funds, either through an existing Program EIR or through individual
assessment. The Endangered Species Act and Antiquities Act apply to all CAL FIRE Pre-Fire
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CEQA and Fire Safe Councils (Per Norm Hill, CAL FIRE Legal Counsel)
CEQA applies to decisions by state and local governmental agencies to carry out
or approve projects that have the potential for causing significant environmental
effects. As I understand the situation, fire safe councils are not governmental
agencies. They are informal groups that work to coordinate fire safety activities
of public and private entities, but a fire safe council itself is not an agency
with powers granted by the State Legislature or by a local legislative body.
While the council may have representatives from State and local agencies, these
representatives do not make the council a public agency.
As a result, decisions of a fire safe council are not subject to CEQA. However,
if an activity sponsored by a fire safe council needs approval, financing, or
efforts directly undertaken by a state or local public agency, the public agency
would need to address CEQA compliance with its actions.
The application of the National Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA) which is the
federal counterpart of CEQA, raises other issues. NEPA applies to decisions by
Note: The Fire Safe Councils have been advised that the Endangered Species Act
and the Antiquities Act may apply to their projects. It is their responsibility
to consult with local experts to determine if an environmental assessment is
needed and what steps need to be taken for compliance with the Antiquities and
Endangered Species Acts. Those who accept grant funds are accountable and responsible
for their actions.
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