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NEPA: Understanding the Basics

OnDemand Webinar (88 minutes)

Get practical advice so you can prepare useful and legally compliant NEPA documents and avoid common mistakes.Since 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act has been the cornerstone for environmental protection in the United States. To implement NEPA, federal agencies must prepare environmental impact statements or environmental assessments to study the impacts of their proposed actions. Unfortunately, some federal agencies, their consultants and affected citizens do not fully understand the regulations, legal interpretations and practices for properly complying with NEPA. Thus, there are many mistakes in implementing the law. This topic will identify some of the most common mistakes made under NEPA and reveal the best ways to avoid them. You will get practical advice for preparing useful and legally sufficient NEPA documents. This information is critical for federal agency staff, consultants working for federal agencies and others interested in the NEPA process.


Michael D. Smith, Ph.D., ENERCON


Misunderstanding NEPA's Legal and Political Framework

• Forgetting Why NEPA Was Necessary

• Misunderstanding the Overall NEPA Process

• Doing Too Much or Too Little

• Failure to Assess Risks of Noncompliance

Mistakes Using Categorical Exclusions

• Misuse of Exclusions

• Overlooking Extraordinary Circumstances

• Failure to Properly Document Decisions

Mistakes With Environmental Assessments and Findings of No Significant Impact

• Segmenting a Project Into Pieces to Avoid Preparing an EIS

• Deciding Not to Prepare an EIS Before Preparing an EA

• Conclusions in FONSI Not Supported by Analysis in EA

• Failure to Use the Context and Intensity Criteria in an EA

• Too Much Applicant Control Over EA Preparation

• Inadequate and Deferred Mitigation

Mistakes With Environmental Impact Statements

• Using Improper Baseline for Evaluating Impacts

• Inadequate Range of Alternatives

• Inadequate Cumulative Impact Analysis

• Failure to Evaluate Induced Growth

• Insufficient Impact Analysis: Bad Data, Old Data and No Data

Procedural Errors

• Insufficient Public Involvement

• Inadequate Agency Coordination and Integration

• Failure to Maintain a Complete Administrative Record