NEPA: Understanding the Basics
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Understand the main elements of NEPA review and the decision documents as well as scope and timing.Often called the linchpin of U.S. environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) directs Federal agencies to review proposed actions and to consider potential impacts that the action will have on the social, economic, and physical environment. NEPA is a process-forcing mechanism designed to ensure that environmental considerations are factored into the decision-making process and provides a springboard for public comment. Any project with a federal connection (e.g., a permit, financing, federal land etc.) will trigger NEPA review. The purpose of this topic is to help you understand the basics of NEPA review. We will explore the main elements of the three types of review (categorical exclusions, environmental assessments, and environmental impact statements), the decision documents, and scope and timing. In addition, we will touch on judicial review of NEPA decisions as well as trends in streamlining the process.
AuthorsRafe Petersen, Holland & Knight LLP
What Are the Goals of the National Environmental Policy Act?
What Does NEPA Apply to?
Overview of Council on Environmental Quality's Updated Regulations Implementing NEPA
• Agency-Specific Regulations
What Are the Levels of Review?
• Categorical Exclusions
• Environmental Assessment
- Role of Mitigation
- Finding of No Significant Impact
• Elements of an Environmental Impact Statement
- Purpose and Need
- Public Input
- Timing and Scope
- Record of Decision
• Administrative Procedure Act and Hard Look Review
Federal Streamlining Efforts
• Pros and Cons of Streamlined Environmental Reviews