Some of the key issues that can affect CEQA documents and permit consistency are:
- California Environmental Review and Permit Approval Process
- General Information versus Specific Information
- Outdated CEQA Review and Project Changes
California Environmental Review and Permit Approval Process
For a project subject to CEQA PDF download, State law requires evidence of compliance with the CEQA through the preparation, circulation, and adoption/certification of an environmental document prior to project approval.
CalRecycle staff must analyze and evaluate whether the environmental document clearly describes all phases of a proposed project. For an environmental document to be adequate for use in the permitting process, the proposed project must be described in sufficient detail to support all the specifications and conditions of the requested permit. The permit concurrence process is greatly facilitated when this type of information is included, and thoroughly addressed, in the environmental document.
Reference: 14 CCR Sections 15004(a) and 15096
There are many differences between the information presented in the CEQA document, prepared to support the proposed project, and the information provided in the permit. PRC Section 44009(a)(2) states: “If the board determines that the permit is not consistent with the state minimum standards adopted pursuant to section 43020, or is not consistent with sections 43040, 43600, 44007, 44010, 44017, 44150, and 44152 or Division 31 (commencing with Section 50000), the board shall object to provisions of the permit and shall submit those objections to the local enforcement agency for its consideration.”
General Information versus Specific Information
Permits tend to include detailed information such as specific operating parameters, future plans for the project, and approvals that lock the project into a narrow scope. Some of the items listed in the permit may include peak tons per day, total site capacity, hours and days of operation, vehicle numbers, types of waste handled, method of handling waste streams, etc.
Permit processing problems may occur if the information in the CEQA document is too general and vague, and does not contain enough detail to support the detail and specific information for the facility in the requested permit. Some common mistakes made in project descriptions in environmental documents are:
- Details covering only what is needed for local and land use permits.
- Descriptions tend to be too narrow in scope.
- Allows for changes to project that do not affect land use decision.
- May not refer to solid waste facility permit requirements.
- Details buried in initial study.
- Alludes to other aspects of project, without detail.
The key issue a CEQA team for a proposed project should address is whether all aspects of the permit were reviewed and analyzed in the CEQA document. See Top 10 CEQA Process Problems for more information.
Outdated CEQA Review and Project Changes
If an environmental review was completed 2-10 years prior to the permit, it may be outdated. This would depend on changes to the project and/or changes to the surrounding area of the project. Some changes to a project may require additional environmental review in the form of an addendum, a supplemental environmental document, or a new environmental document.
Many other additional changes in solid waste infrastructure, such as landfill closures, new compost facilities, new contracts, etc. could also affect the need to prepare a new or supplemental environmental document.
It is important that new projects, even if they are only minor ones, which are added to existing projects be evaluated as contributing to cumulative effects. When in doubt, an initial study should be prepared to address the proposed changes.
That said, an environmental document does not have a “use by date” or an expiration date.
Some of the mitigations proposed, or changes to the project, could result in the mitigations being inconsistent with state minimum standards. Some examples would be dust control using leachate, interior dust control issues, and odor control.
Another problem may be that the LEA MRMP may lack authority or may create duplication.
Some of the key process issues that may result in poor consistency between the environmental documents and the permit are:
- LEA and CalRecycle were not consulted early in the planning stages.
- LEA and CalRecycle were not included in document review process.
- Changes were made to the CEQA document after local enforcement agency and CalRecycle review.
- Application data does not match CEQA analysis.
- Proposed permit does not match CEQA analysis.
There are many solutions to avoid problems with CEQA documents and permit consistency. Of these, the primary actions that could reduce and/or eliminate problems later on are:
- The lead agency consults with the LEA and CalRecycle during preliminary review process.
- The CEQA document should describe the largest possible project.
- All relevant CEQA documents should be circulated through the State Clearinghouse.
- There should be an effort to respond to comments made on the CEQA document.
- If the document changes, the LEA and CalRecycle should be notified immediately.
- Ensure that all aspects of proposed project are described clearly and in detail, especially regarding tonnages, hours, vehicles, waste types, capacities, and waste handling methods.
- Consider making the report of facility information part of the CEQA document project description.
- Check for any and all changes since the last CEQA document review.
- Write the permit to match the issues analyzed for in the CEQA document.