Purpose of Initial Study

An initial study is a preliminary analysis conducted by the lead agency to determine if a project may have a significant effect on the environment. The initial study also aids in determining what type of environmental document to prepare.



Decide whether to prepare a negative declaration or environmental impact report

  • If the initial study determines there is no substantial evidence that the project may cause a significant effect on the environment, the lead agency shall prepare a ND or MND.
  • If it is determined that there are potentially significant effects on the environment that cannot be mitigated, the lead agency shall do one of the following:
    • Prepare an EIR.
    • Use a previously prepared EIR that adequately analyzes the new project.
    • Determine if another type of EIR or another appropriate process is applicable. The lead agency shall then ascertain which effects, if any should be analyzed in a later EIR or ND.

Enable modification of project to qualify for ND rather than an EIR

Based on the findings of the initial study, the applicant or lead agency may modify a project, mitigating adverse impacts, thereby qualifying the project for a ND.

Assist in the preparation of an EIR

The initial study can aid in the preparation of an EIR in the following ways:

  • Identifies non-significant effects.
  • Allows the lead agency to focus on potentially significant effects.
  • Explains the reasons for determining why potential environmental effects would not be significant.
  • Identifies the appropriate type of EIR.

Facilitate early environmental assessment

The initial study identifies potentially significant effects on the environment early enough so that the project may be designed to avoid many of them.

Document environmental findings

The initial study provides documentation of the factual basis for the findings in a ND that a project will not have a significant effect on the environment.

Avoid unnecessary EIRs

The project’s environmental document may be able to be tiered off of a previous environmental document.

Determine if previous EIR is applicable to the project

The initial study can identify if a project’s environmental effects have been adequately addressed in another environmental document from an earlier project.


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For more information contact: LEA Support Services, PermitTrainingAssistance@calrecycle.ca.gov