Guidelines are regulations that explain, interpret and implement the CEQA. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is responsible for updating the Guidelines. It is a self-enforced collection of requirements and all public agencies are entrusted to follow the Guidelines.
Public agencies should decide whether a project is subject to CEQA or not. The Guidelines provide criteria to make a determination.
When the public agency determines that the activity is a project, the Guidelines provide criteria to apply to see whether the activity is exempt from CEQA review or not. If it is a listed exempt activity, then the public agency will prepare a Notice of Exemption and if necessary, file with certain other public agencies for public review incompliance with the Guidelines.
If the project is not Exempt, then the public agency needs to make a determination whether the project will have any impact on the environment or not. Certain impacts can be mitigated through mitigation measures. So, the public agency following Guidelines prepares a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration for adoption by the decision maker of the project.
If there are impacts that can’t be mitigated to a level insignificance, a costly Environmental Impact Report will be prepared.