The Initial Study Checklist will determine what type of CEQA document will be required for a project, whether it be a Negative Declaration, a Mitigated Negative Declaration, or an Environmental Impact Report. The questions posed in the Initial Study Checklist can also serve as significance threshold in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report.

The determination of what type of CEQA document is required for a project is based on the responses to 89 questions covering 18 environmental issues contained in Appendix G of the Guidelines to the California Environmental Quality Act, prepared by the California Natural Resources Agency.

According to the California Natural Resources Agency, Appendix G is a sample form that may be modified as necessary to suit the lead agency and to address the particular circumstances of the project under consideration. In addition, the Third District Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion that clarified that all substantial evidence regarding potential impacts of a project must be considered, even if the particular potential impact is not listed in Appendix G. (Protect the Historic Amador Waterways, supra, 116 Cal.App.4th at 1109.)

In practice, Appendix G serves as the basis for the majority of Initial Study Checklists prepared by a lead agency. Even if a lead agency uses a modified form, the information contained in the Guide to the CEQA Initial Study Checklist 2010 can be useful.

Each of the 18 environmental issues described in Appendix G are covered in standalone chapters for easy reference. The CEQA document preparer can select what environmental issue they are interested in and find all of the information in that chapter.

This is not a book that has to be read cover to cover to be understood, but instead can be used as a quick reference source for whatever environmental topic the Initial Study Checklist preparer is interested in.