Environmental Impact Report Review in California

In Dry Creek Citizens Coalition v. County of Tulare (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 20, 25-26, and then again in Protect Our Water v. County of Merced (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 362, 370-371, the Court restated the standard by which an appellate court will review the adequacy of an environmental impact report (EIR): "'In reviewing an agency's determination under CEQA, a court must determine whether the agency prejudicially abused its discretion. Abuse of discretion is established if the agency has not proceeded in a manner required by law or if the determination is not supported by substantial evidence. The court does not pass on the correctness of an EIR's environmental conclusions, but determines whether the EIR is sufficient as an informational document. Citations. An adequate EIR must be "prepared with a sufficient degree of analysis to provide decisionmakers with information which enables them to make a decision which intelligently takes account of environmental consequences." It "must include detail sufficient to enable those who did not participate in its preparation to understand and to consider meaningfully the issues raised by the proposed project." The court must uphold an EIR if there is any substantial evidence in the record to support the agency's decision that the EIR is adequate and complies with CEQA. "'CEQA requires an EIR to reflect a good faith effort at full disclosure; it does not mandate perfection, nor does it require an analysis to be exhaustive. The absence of information in an EIR does not per se constitute a prejudicial abuse of discretion. A prejudicial abuse of discretion occurs if the failure to include relevant information precludes informed decisionmaking and informed public participation, thereby thwarting the statutory goals of the EIR process. ' (See also Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project v. County of Stanislaus (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 182, 192-193 ; 21005, 21100; State CEQA Guidelines, 15126, subd. (a) EIR shall discuss the significant environmental effects of the proposed project.) "'"On appeal, the appellate court's 'task ... is the same as that of the trial court: that is, to review the agency's actions to determine whether the agency complied with procedures required by law.' The appellate court reviews the administrative record independently; the trial court's conclusions are not binding on it. " ' (Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project v. County of Stanislaus, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th at pp. 192-193; see also Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376.)" (Protect Our Water, supra, 110 Cal.App.4th at pp. 370-371.)