While the majority of public feedback  on CEQA projects take the form of written comment letters on Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), Negative Declarations (NDs) or Mitigated Negative Declarations (MNDs), important opportunities for comment exist at in-person (or online) public hearings and scoping meetings.

Public hearings

CEQA does not require formal hearings at any stage of the environmental review process, but in special cases, an agency may decide to hold a hearing. Agencies are required to notify the public of any hearings, so watch for announcements and check the agency’s website for postings. These are important opportunities to provide both oral testimony and written comments, particularly if you learned about the project late in the review period.

  • Oral comments – Present your comments verbally at a public hearing, because sometimes the decision makers have not had enough time themselves to fully review all the documents, and their decisions may be swayed by the type and number of comments that are received at the public hearing.
  • Written comments – Even if oral comments are delivered, it is still good practice to submit your comment in writing. Written comments can usually articulate the entire critical analysis in a clear and organized way. Written comments used alongside oral comments can create a powerful combination.

Scoping meetings

Scoping meetings are another opportunity for public education and engagement on a project. Though they are not usually required by CEQA, they are not uncommon for large projects. These forums offer a space to provide oral scoping comments, similar to written comments that would be made when the Notice of Preparation is circulated. Scoping meetings also provide a space to learn more about the project and direct questions to the project proponent and the lead agency.

CEQA requirements for scoping meetings:

A lead agency shall call at least one scoping meeting for either of the following (§ 21083.9 (a)):

  • A proposed project that may affect highways or other facilities under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation if the meeting is requested by the department. The lead agency shall call the scoping meeting as soon as possible, but not later than 30 days after receiving the request from the Department of Transportation.
  • A project of statewide, regional, or areawide significance.

The lead agency is required to notify the following of the scoping meeting (§ 21083.9 (b))

  • A county or city that borders on a county or city within which the project is located, unless otherwise designated annually by agreement between the lead agency and the county or city.
  • A responsible agency.
  • A public agency with jurisdiction by law regarding the project.
  • A transportation planning agency or public agency that is required to be consulted pursuant to Section 21092.4.
  • A public agency, organization or individual who has filed a written request for the notice.