Governor’s Executive Order Temporarily Changes CEQA’s Noticing Procedures, Suspends Tribal Consultation Deadlines
Executive Order N-54-20 (“EO N-54-20”), issued by Governor Newsom on April 23, 2020, changes the procedures for posting certain notices under the California Environmental Quality Act and extends the period for tribal consultation, both for a period of 60 days. EO N-54-20 specifically states that it does not extend any public comment periods on CEQA documents.
Certain Notifications Temporarily Not Required to be Physically Posted
Under normal CEQA requirements, certain types of notices need to be physically posted at the County Clerk. Due to shelter-in-place and related COVID-19 orders, many County facilities are closed or have limited public access. Therefore, under EO N-54-20, agencies will not be required to submit the following notices to the County Clerk for physical posting during the 60-day period following the issuance of EO N-54-20 which ends June 22, 2020.
- Notices of Preparation of EIRs
- Notices of Availability of Draft EIRs
- Notices of Intent to Adopt Negative Declarations
- Notices of Determination
- Notices of Exemption
Actions Required in Lieu of Physical Posting of Certain Notifications
EO N-54-20 requires agencies to take all three of the following actions for making the above-listed notices available to the public in lieu of physical posting. EO N-54-20 also encourages agencies “to pursue additional methods of public notice and outreach as appropriate for particular projects and communities.”
- “Post such materials on the relevant agency’s or applicant’s public-facing website for the same period of time that physical posting would otherwise be required;
- “Submit all materials electronically to the State Clearinghouse CEQAnet Web Portal;
- “Engage in outreach to any individuals and entities known by the lead agency, responsible agency, or project applicant to be parties interested in the project in the manner contemplated by the Public Resources Code sections 21100 et seq. and California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 15000 et seq.”
Suspension of Tribal Consultation Timelines
EO N-54-20 also suspends the timelines for required tribal consultation for projects that may impact tribal resources. Under CEQA, agencies must attempt to consult with tribes who may have an interest in a project by providing the tribes with notice of the project and an invitation to begin a statutorily proscribed consultation process. If the tribe does not respond within 30 days to the notice, the agency is free to assume that the tribe does not wish to consult. EO N-54-20 suspends this 30-day timeline for 60 days. In effect, agencies will be prohibited from considering the tribes to have waived consultation until the expiration of EO N-54-20 on June 22, 2020, plus any additional time that remains in the normal 30-day consultation period.