The basic purposes of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are to inform governmental decision makers and the public about the potential, significant environmental effects of proposed activities, identify the ways that environmental damage can be avoided or significantly reduced and prevent significant, avoidable damage to the environment by requiring changes in projects through the use of feasible alternatives or mitigation measures. The purpose is also to disclose to the public the reasons why a governmental agency approved a project if significant environmental effects are involved.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is subject to the requirements of CEQA because it carries out and approves various hazardous waste-related projects that have the potential to impact the environment. These projects include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Remedial Investigations
- Interim Removals
- Removal Action Workplans
- Remedial Action Plans
- Initial Permits
- Corrective Action Determinations
- Permit Modifications
- Permit Renewals
- Closure Plans
- Post-Closure Plans
- Regulation Development
As a Lead Agency (the agency with principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project), DTSC complies with CEQA by conducting a preliminary environmental impact evaluation to determine if a project subject to its approval is statutorily or categorically exempt from CEQA, or if further environmental review in the form of an Initial Study is required. The Initial Study serves to 1) determine whether an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or a Negative Declaration must be prepared, and/or 2) identify the significant environmental effects that must be analyzed in an EIR. DTSC issues the draft environmental document and supporting data and information at the same time it releases draft project documents to the public and agencies for review and comment. DTSC considers comments received before it makes a final determination on the project.
When DTSC acts as a Responsible Agency (when it has permitting authority or approval power over some aspect of the overall project for which another agency is the Lead Agency for CEQA purposes) it complies with CEQA by reviewing and commenting on environmental documents prepared by the Lead Agency. As a Responsible Agency, DTSC takes into consideration the EIR or Negative Declaration prepared by the Lead Agency and then DTSC reaches its own conclusions on whether and how to approve the aspects of project subject to its approval.
In the 2010 calendar year, DTSC completed more than 120 environmental documents as a Lead Agency. DTSC also processed more than 1,500 outside agency environmental documents submitted for its review by other agencies through the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research/State Clearinghouse.