The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is a central component of the CEQA process. It’s where the bulk of the environmental review is discussed, analyzing potential impacts, outlining mitigation measures, and reviewing the important aspects of the project. EIRs can be lengthy documents, sometimes tens of thousands of pages, so it is helpful to identify the relevant sections of the EIR for CNPS comment letters.  

What is an EIR and what does it contain? 

An EIR is an informational document that informs decisionmakers and the public about the environmental impacts of a project. It also outlines potential mitigation for those impacts and several alternatives to the proposed project plan (including a “no action” alternative, which assesses the environmental impacts of not having any project).  

Every EIR must include the following (CEQA Guidelines § 15120 – 15132): 

  • Summary and description 
  • Analysis of the current environmental setting 
  • Analysis of the potential impacts 
  • Analysis of impacts of alternatives to the project 
  • Discussion of mitigation measures 

The EIR can be lengthy and overwhelming, and no two EIRs will be structured and formatted exactly alike. Luckily, we only have to look for a few specific pieces of information to be in a position to submit helpful, informed comments. CNPS comments must have a plant nexus, so only certain sections of the EIR will be relevant to a CNPS comment letter. The Navigating the EIR section of this toolkit outlines how to find the information you need and provides you with tools to begin engaging with CEQA projects through the comment letter process.  

The Lead Agency will circulate both a draft and final EIR. See the quick overview of what each version contains below:

Draft EIR

  • Table of Contents – This provides an overview of the EIR. 
  • Executive Summary – Generally 15 pages or shorter, this summary is helpful  to get a sense of the big picture of the project. 
  • Project Description- This will contain: 
    • Location 
    • Project objective 
    • Intended uses of the EIR 
    • A list of permits and other approvals required  
    • A list of agencies that will use the EIR for decision making 
    • All of the public agencys’ decisions subject to CEQA 
    • Environmental setting that provides the baseline conditions to which potential impacts of the project are compared
    • Analysis and discussion of environmental impacts 
    • Mitigation measures 
    • Alternatives (A “No project” alternative is required.)  
    • Organizations and persons consulted 
    • Discussion of cumulative impacts 

Final EIR

  • Includes the draft EIR or a revision of the draft 
  • Comments and recommendations received on the draft EIR (verbatim or summary) 
  • A list of persons, organizations, and public agencies that commented on the draft EIR 
  • The responses of the lead agency to significant environmental points raised in the review and consultation process  
  • Any other information added by the lead agency