Environmental Definitions

Approving Body -

The Board of Supervisors, the County Planning Commission, the Subdivision Review Committee, the Zoning Administrator, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Sacramento Transportation Authority, the Sacramento Flood Control Agency, or any other entity having discretionary authority as defined in CEQA.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -

California's environmental review and protection law (Public Resources Code Sections 21000-21177).

Categorical Exemptions -

Classes of projects that the state has determined not to cause significant environmental damage in most cases.

CEQA Guidelines -

CEQA implementation regulations (Sections 15000-15387 California Code of Regulations) that have been prepared by the State Office of Planning and Research and adopted by the State Secretary of Resources. All agencies are expected to follow the guidelines when evaluating projects.

Cumulative Impacts -

"Cumulative impacts" refer to two or more individual effects which, when considered together, are considerable or which compound or increase other environmental impacts. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant projects taking place over a period of time.

De minimis (Latin; insignificant, minute) -

The term as used herein refers to projects that will not substantially damage state wildlife resources.

Emergency -

A sudden, unexpected occurrence, involving a clear and imminent danger, demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss of, or damage to, life, health, property or essential public services.

Environment -

The physical conditions that exist within an area which will be affected by a proposed project including land, air, water, minerals, plants, animals, noise, and objects of historical or aesthetic significance.

Environmental Coordinator -

The individual appointed to make environmental determinations for the Lead Agency. In Sacramento County, the County Executive appoints the Environmental Coordinator.

Environmental Determination -

A statement that there is either: (1) substantial evidence that a project will cause significant environmental damage and the agency needs to prepare an EIR; and (2) a need for the Lead Agency to make findings of significant environmental damage and to adopt a statement that benefits outweigh project costs; or (3) no anticipated significant damage is expected to occur so the agency can issue a Negative Declaration for the project.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) -

A detailed statement that describes and analyzes a project's potential significant environmental damages and proposes ways to mitigate or avoid the negative effects. A Draft EIR is the first review document released as part of the EIR process. Comments received during the Draft EIR's public review process are evaluated as part of a Final EIR process. The Final EIR contains a public agency's response to comments received, if any.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) -

A federal agency review, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, of a project that is expected to cause significant environmental damage. It is the federal equivalent of an EIR.

Findings -

A disclosure statement of anticipated substantial environmental damages prepared for a project approved with an EIR. Findings must be based on substantial evidence in the project record. The public agency either states that: (1) substantial expected environmental damage has been substantially lessened or avoided; (2) mitigations which are not adopted are within the jurisdiction of another agency; or (3) mitigations are unfeasible because of specific economic, social or other considerations. Findings must be made by any agency intending to approve a project that will cause substantial environmental damage (significant adverse environmental impact).

Initial Study -

A Lead Agency's preliminary project analysis which is used to: (1) serve as an informational document to be used by the public and by decision makers when making choices about projects; (2) determine whether a project has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts; (3) decide whether an EIR is required; (4) ensure that all potential areas of environmental damage are identified; (5) identify possible appropriate mitigation measures; and (6) assist in the preparation of EIRs by identifying the potential environmental damages upon which an EIR should focus.

Lead Agency -

The public agency that has the principle authority for carrying out or approving a project.

Ministerial Action -

Approvals which involve the use of fixed standards or objective measures without requiring the use of personal or professional judgment e.g. issuance of building permits and licenses, approval of final subdivision or parcel maps, and individual utility service connection sign-offs

Mitigation -

Steps taken to: (1) avoid, reduce or eliminate environmental damage; (2) repair, restore or rehabilitate the environment; and/or (3) compensate for expected damage.

Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) -

A program designed to ensure that the adopted environmental mitigation measures are actually completed.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) -

The federal law that requires that a project's potential environmental damage be identified, assessed, minimized or avoided, if feasible, prior to project approval. NEPA only applies to projects that require approval by a federal agency.

Negative Declaration -

A written statement which briefly describes the reasons that a proposed project will not cause substantial damage to the environment and does not require the preparation of an EIR.

Notice of Completion -

A notice filed with the State Office of Planning and Research which states that a Draft EIR has been issued and that copies were being distributed for public review.

Notice of Determination (NOD) -

A notice filed with the County Clerk (and the State Clearinghouse when appropriate) which: (1) describes a project; (2) identifies expected environmental impacts, if any; (3) states the type of environmental determination which was made; (4) indicates if Department of Fish and Game fees are required ("de minimis" finding) and (5) includes copies of Findings of Fact and a Statement of Overriding Considerations where appropriate. Filing of the Notice of Determination starts a 30-day period for legal challenge.

Notice of Exemption (NOE) -

A brief notice, filed at the County Clerk's office, which states the Lead Agency has approved or will carry out a project that is exempt from the requirements of CEQA.

Notice of Intent (NOI) -

The method for informing the public that an agency intends to adopt a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration for a project, and that such Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration is available for public review and comment.

Notice of Preparation (NOP) -

A notice sent to public agencies and interested parties which informs them of the intent to: (1) prepare an EIR; (2) solicit comments and advice regarding what they believe the future EIR should address.

Project -

 An activity which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment, and which is any of the following: (1) An activity directly undertaken by any public agency; (2) An activity undertaken by a person which is supported, in whole or in part, through contracts, grants, subsidies, loans, or other forms of assistance from one or more public agencies; and (3) An activity that involves the issuance to a person of a lease, permit, license, certificate, or other entitlement for use by one or more public agencies (CEQA Guidelines).

Public Review Period -

A period of specified duration during which anyone may review and comment on an EIR, Negative Declaration, or other document.

Public Notice -

The method for informing the public that an EIR has been prepared for a project and is available for public review and comment. Notice may be: (1) provided directly to surrounding landowners; (2) published in a widely circulated newspaper; or (3) posted on-site and in the project area. In Sacramento County, public notice is generally published. For private projects, property owners within 500 feet of a project site are notified whenever any public hearing is held for a project.

Responsible Agency

A public agency which proposes to carry out or approve a project for which a Lead Agency has prepared an EIR or Negative Declaration. The term refers to any agency that has discretionary approval authority over any portion of a project not governed by the Lead Agency.

Significant Environmental Effect (Impact)

A substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change within the area affected by a project including changes to land, air, water, minerals, plants, wildlife, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance. A social or economic change that causes a physical change may also be considered when determining whether the project's harmful physical changes are significant.

State Clearinghouse -

An environmental document distribution center in the State Office of Planning and Research. The Clearinghouse distributes certain types of documents to state agencies that may have an interest in commenting upon an environmental review.

Statement of Overriding Considerations -

A statement that the agency had balanced a project's benefits against its expected environmental risks and determined that benefits outweigh risks. The statement must: (1) clearly identify the anticipated social, economic or other benefits; (2) be included in the public record; and (3) be attached to the NOD when it is filed.​​