California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

CEQA Toolbox

Types of EIR Documents

This article describes a number of examples of variations in an EIR, as the documents are tailored to different situations and intended uses. These variations are not exclusive. Lead agencies may use other variations consistent with the Guidelines to meet the needs of other circumstances. An EIR must meet the content requirements discussed in Article 9 beginning with Section 15120.

Project EIR

The most common type of EIR examines the environmental impacts of a specific development project. This type of EIR should focus primarily on the changes in the environment that would result from the development project. The EIR shall examine all phases of the project including planning, construction, and operation.

Subsequent EIR

When an EIR has been certified or a negative declaration adopted for a project, no subsequent EIR shall be prepared for that project unless the lead agency determines, based on substantial evidence in the light of the whole record, one or more of the following:

  • Substantial changes are proposed in the project which will require major revisions of the previous EIR or ND due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects;
  • Substantial changes occur with respect to the circumstances under which the project is undertaken which will require major revisions of the previous EIR or ND due to the involvement of new significant environmental effects or a substantial increase in the severity of previously identified significant effects; or
  • New information of substantial importance, which was not known and could not have been known with the exercise of reasonable diligence at the time the previous EIR was certified as complete or the ND was adopted, shows any of the following:
    • The project will have one or more significant effects not discussed in the previous EIR or ND;
    • Significant effects previously examined will be substantially more severe than shown in the previous EIR;
    • Mitigation measures or alternatives previously found not to be feasible would in fact be feasible, and would substantially reduce one or more significant effects of the project, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative; or
    • Mitigation measures or alternatives which are considerably different from those analyzed in the previous EIR would substantially reduce one or more significant effects on the environment, but the project proponents decline to adopt the mitigation measure or alternative.

If changes to a project or its circumstances occur, or new information becomes available after adoption of a ND, the lead agency shall prepare a subsequent EIR if required under [14 CCR Section 15162(a)]. Otherwise, the lead agency shall determine whether to prepare a subsequent negative declaration or an addendum, or no further documentation.

A subsequent EIR or subsequent ND shall be given the same notice and public review as required under CEQA Guidelines Section 15072 or Section 15087. A subsequent EIR or ND shall state where the previous documents are available and may be reviewed.

Supplement to an EIR

The lead or responsible agency may choose to prepare a supplement to an EIR rather than a subsequent EIR if:

  • Any of the conditions described in 14 CCR Section 15162 would require the preparation of a subsequent EIR, and
  • Only minor additions or changes would be necessary to make the previous EIR adequately apply to the project in the changed situation.

The supplement to the EIR need contain only the information necessary to make the previous EIR adequate for the project as revised, shall be given the same kind of notice and public review as is given to a draft EIR under Section 15087, and may be circulated by itself without re-circulating the previous draft or final EIR.

When the agency decides whether to approve the project, the decision-making body shall consider the previous EIR as revised by the supplemental EIR. A finding under 14 CCR Section 15091 shall be made for each significant effect shown in the previous EIR as revised.

Addendum to an EIR or Negative Declaration

The lead or responsible agency shall prepare an addendum to a previously certified EIR if some changes or additions are necessary but none of the conditions described in 14 CCR Section 15162 calling for preparation of a subsequent EIR have occurred. An addendum to an adopted ND may be prepared if only minor technical changes or additions are necessary or none of the conditions described in 14 CCR Section 15162 calling for the preparation of a subsequent EIR or ND have occurred. An addendum need not be circulated for public review, but can be included in or attached to the final EIR or adopted ND. The decision making body shall consider the addendum with the final EIR or adopted ND prior to making a decision on the project. A brief explanation of the decision not to prepare a subsequent EIR pursuant to 14 CCR Section 15162 should be included in an addendum to an EIR, the lead agency's findings on the project, or elsewhere in the record. The explanation must be supported by substantial evidence.

Multiple and Phased Projects

Where individual projects are, or a phased project is, to be undertaken and where the total undertaking comprises a project with significant environmental effect, the lead agency shall prepare a single program EIR for the ultimate project as described in 14 CCR Section 15168. Where an individual project is a necessary precedent for action on a larger project, or commits the lead agency to a larger project, with significant environmental effect, an EIR must address itself to the scope of the larger project. Where one project is one of several similar projects of a public agency, but is not deemed a part of a larger undertaking or a larger project, the agency may prepare one EIR for all projects, or one for each project, but shall in either case comment upon the cumulative effect.

EIR as Part of a General Plan

The requirements for preparing an EIR on a local general plan, element, or amendment thereof will be satisfied by using the general plan, or element document, as the EIR and no separate EIR will be required, if:

  • The general plan addresses all the points required to be in an EIR by Article 9 of the CEQA Guidelines, and
  • The document contains a special section or a cover sheet identifying where the general plan document addresses each of the points required.

Where an EIR rather than a ND has been prepared for a general plan, element, or amendment thereto, the EIR shall be forwarded to the State Clearinghouse for review. The requirement shall apply regardless of whether the EIR is prepared as a separate document or as a part of the general plan or element document.

Staged EIR

Where a large capital project will require a number of discretionary approvals from government agencies and one of the approvals will occur more than two years before construction will begin, a staged EIR may be prepared covering the entire project in a general form. The staged EIR shall evaluate the proposal in light of current and contemplated plans and produce an informed estimate of the environmental consequences of the entire project. The aspect of the project before the public agency for approval shall be discussed with a greater degree of specificity.

When a staged EIR has been prepared, a supplement to the EIR shall be prepared when a later approval is required for the project, and the information available at the time of the later approval would permit consideration of additional environmental impacts, mitigation measures, or reasonable alternatives to the project.

Program EIR

A program EIR is an EIR that may be prepared on a series of actions that can be characterized as one large project, and are related either:

  • Geographically,
  • As logical parts in the chain of contemplated actions,
  • In connection with issuance of rules, regulations, plans, or other general criteria to govern the conduct of a continuing program, or
  • As individual activities carried out under the same authorizing statutory or regulatory authority, and having generally similar environmental effects which can be mitigated in similar ways.

The use of a program EIR can provide the following advantages. The program EIR can:

  • Provide an occasion for a more exhaustive consideration of effects and alternatives than would be practical in an EIR on an individual action,
  • Ensure consideration of cumulative impacts that might be slighted in a case-by-case analysis,
  • Avoid duplicative reconsideration of basic policy considerations,
  • Allow the lead agency to consider broad policy alternatives and program wide mitigation measures at an early time when the agency has greater flexibility to deal with basic problems or cumulative impacts, and
  • Allow reduction in paperwork.

A program EIR will be most helpful in dealing with subsequent activities if it deals with the effects of the program as specifically and comprehensively as possible. With a good and detailed analysis of the program, many subsequent activities could be found to be within the scope of the project described in the program EIR, and no further environmental documents would be required.

A program EIR can be used to simplify the task of preparing environmental documents on later parts of the program. The program EIR can:

  • Provide the basis in an initial study for determining whether the later activity may have any significant effects.
  • Be incorporated by reference to deal with regional influences, secondary effects, cumulative impacts, broad alternatives, and other factors that apply to the program as a whole.
  • Focus an EIR on a subsequent project to permit discussion solely of new effects which had not been considered before.

Joint EIR-EIS

A lead agency under CEQA may work with a federal agency to prepare a joint document that will meet the requirements of both CEQA and the NEPA. Use of such a joint document is described in Article 14, beginning with Section 15220.

Reference: CEQA Guidelines, Types of Environmental Impact Reports

EIR Home

Last updated: September 6, 2013
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Kevin Taylor: Kevin.Taylor@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 341-6582