We are very pleased to bring you this publication celebrating the California Environmental Quality Act, California’s premier environmental law. As the title suggests, CEQA has empowered Californians to protect California in all its diversity: from safeguarding the urban environment to conserving California’s magnificent coasts, forests, mountains, farmland, and more. It has also provided a critical framework for government accountability. No other environmental law has had such broad reach. Read the report, CEQA Everyday Heroes (9MB PDF).

We began this report in the summer of 2004, calling community groups and activists and asking for their stories and thoughts about CEQA. We subsequently organized our steering committee and reached out to leading practitioners for articles. The response was tremendous. In a space of four months, more than 80 people contributed to the 98 articles in this report. We would like to thank our steering committee members, authors, and many others whose help and guidance immeasurably improved our work. This report is literally a community effort.

Further thanks go to the participants in the CEQA stories profiled here, and in countless others that we did not cover. The stunning record of environmental achievement under CEQA is also a community effort — the legacy of thirty-five years of vision and commitment to the values of open government and environmental protection.

CEQA has empowered countless Californians to stand up to the powerful forces driving environmental devastation and protect this great state. This report is dedicated to everyone who has ever used CEQA to make California better for all of us.

One CEQA Everyday Hero

Ana Sánchez-Camacho was shocked when she found out there was a two-cycle, turbo-charged diesel generator spewing exhaust just 150 feet away from her six-year-old’s kindergarten.

Alarmed by scientific reports that linked these generators to increased cancer risk, Ana and other parents whose children attend the Sacramento Waldorf School joined forces to protest the generator, which the County Department of Water Quality had been operating illegally for years. Now the Department wanted an official permit. The parents won the review of the permit decision through the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA).

Enacted thirty-five years ago, CEQA is a powerful citizens’ tool that gives Californians a voice in government decisions that affect their communities and their environment. CEQA empowers ordinary people to stand effectively against the powerful and well connected. It forces special interests to do their fair share to protect California’s natural resources. Read our report on CEQA Everyday Heroes (9MB PDF).