The impetus for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) can be traced to the passage of the first federal environmental protection statute in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In response to this federal law, the California State Assembly created the Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Quality to study the possibility of supplementing NEPA through state law. This legislative committee, in 1970, issued a report entitled The Environmental Bill of Rights, which called for a California counterpart to NEPA.
Later that same year, acting on the recommendations of the select committee, the legislature passed, and Governor Reagan signed, the CEQA statute. California was the first state to adopt its own “mini-NEPA” to identify and reduce the environmental impacts of new state projects, attempting to expand the factors balanced in decision-making, to add environmental goals to economic and social goals. While CEQA originally only pertained to projects sponsored or approved by state agencies, CEQA was expanded during the 1970s to include all California development proposals – public or private – that are subject to the discretionary approval of a public agency.