The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) establishes policy and goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment across the United States, and it provides a process for implementing these goals within federal agencies. NEPA was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. Essentially, NEPA ensures that all branches of government consider the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.
When is NEPA required?
NEPA requirements are involved when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Activities include:
- making decisions on permit applications
- adopting federal land management actions
- constructing highways and other publicly owned facilities
Who oversees the NEPA process?
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) reviews and approves NEPA procedures, approves alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA for emergencies, and helps to resolve disputes between Federal agencies, other governmental entities, and members of the public.
One of CEQ’s major responsibilities is to also develop and recommend national policies to the President that promote the improvement of environmental quality and meet the nation’s goals.
Why is NEPA important?
NEPA contains a Declaration of National Environmental Policy, which requires the federal government to use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which we can exist in productive harmony with nature. This ultimately means practicing environmental preservation and consideration.
Additionally, detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of proposed actions, as well as possible alternative actions, are created. These reports are in the forms of Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), and provide transparency to all proposed work. NEPA helps the public be informed of the potential impacts and alternatives involved in projects.
For more information about NEPA visit https://www.epa.gov/nepa.
NEPA Assignment is a process states can choose to undertake where they assume federal responsibility for transportation projects in exchange for a faster federal review process.