The Culver City Democratic Club’s July meeting will feature a talk by C. Tom Williams, Ph.D. (Geology) on how to evaluate a draft environmental impact report (EIR). This will be in anticipation of the draft EIR that Culver City hopes to roll out to the public in the September/October period. The EIR will cover oil and gas exploration in the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field which covers 10% of the entire field.
According to case law, the EIR is at the heart of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), a California statute passed in 1970 after the US federal government passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to institute a statewide policy of environmental protection. CEQA requires state and local agencies within California to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of environmental impacts of proposed projects and adopt feasible measures to mitigate those impacts.
One alternative that a lead agency must usually consider is the no project alternative, which means cancellation of the project and anticipated proposals of new projects in its place. Among all the alternatives, the EIR identifies the environmentally superior alternative; if the environmentally superior alternative is the no project alternative, the EIR identifies the environmentally superior alternative among the other alternatives.
The EIR process begins with the circulation of a Notice of Preparation (NOP) which informs the public, responsible agencies that an EIR will be prepared for a given project. After preparation of the draft EIR, a Notice of Completion (NOC) must be submitted to the Office of Planning and Research which includes project location, location of review copies and public comment review period. If the draft EIR is circulated through the State Clearinghouse, then the public comment period must be 45 days minimally. The lead agency must prepare a final EIR before approving the project. The lead agency then certifies the final EIR and issues its findings. Should significant and unavoidable impacts remain after mitigation, a Statement of Overriding Considerations must be prepared. Finally, the lead agency may decide whether or how to approve or carry out the project after which a notice of determination (NOD) must be filed within five days of approval. Appeal periods and litigation avenues remain after the NOD.