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Environmental Impact Analysis. Background and Regulatory Concepts. What is EIA-Wikipedia. Assessment of the likely positive and/or negative influence a project may have on the environment

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environmental impact analysis

Environmental Impact Analysis

Background and Regulatory Concepts

what is eia wikipedia
What is EIA-Wikipedia
  • Assessment of the likely positive and/or negative influence a project may have on the environment
    • Identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.
    • Ensure that decision-makers (have the proper information and incentive to) consider environmental impacts before deciding whether to proceed with new projects.


Accessed: June 2009

some history
Some History
  • Pioneered by US Laws
    • NHPA (1965), NEPA (1969)
  • Now an international process
    • Countries
    • UN Policies
    • World Bank
  • We will focus on NEPA and Washington’s SEPA law
nepa background
NEPA Background
  • Events of the 60’s
    • Cayuhoga River catches fire
    • Torrey Canyon Oil Spill
    • Concern with Federal Government actions
      • Proposal for dam that would flood Grand Canyon – Famous Greenpeace ads in NY Times and Washington Post
key features
Key Features
  • Created national policies for promoting a healthy environment
  • Established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – NEPA Book pp11-15
  • Federal agencies must amend their own internal rules, policies to conform with NEPA goals and CEQ regulations – p18
  • Established a framework for consideration of environmental consequences and possible mitigation options (EA-EIS process) – Ch’s 3-5
    • Focus on process, not substance, of decisions (unlike SEPA)
  • Model for 15+ state laws
nepa section 101 nepa book p 4
NEPA - Section 101NEPA Book – P 4
  • Sets out environmental policies which directs the federal government to:
    • Act as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations
    • Assure a safe, healthy, productive & aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings
    • Attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health & safety, or other undesirable or unintended consequences
section 101 continued
Section 101 continued
  • Preserve important historic, cultural, & natural aspects of our national heritage & maintain an environment which supports diversity & individual choice
  • Enhance the quality of renewable resources & approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources
nepa section 102
NEPA - Section 102
  • NEPA applies to all federal policies, regulations & laws
  • Directs all federal agencies to:
    • Use a systematic interdisciplinary approach in planning and decision making
    • Ensure the integrated use of natural, & social sciences & environmental design arts
    • Take into consideration un-quantifiable environmental amenities & values as well as economic & technical factors in decision-making
nepa section 1021
NEPA - Section 102
  • Prepare an EIS for “major federal actions significantly affecting the human environment”
  • Study alternatives for any proposal
  • In 1978 US Supreme Court declared that NEPA’s mandate was “essentially procedural” & 1980 affirmed that once an agency has made a decision subject to NEPA’s requirements, the judicial role is limited to whether the agency has “considered” environmental consequences of it’s action.
what s covered nepa book chapter 2
What’s CoveredNEPA Book Chapter 2
  • Major federal actions
    • Federal plans, rules, programs
    • Projects requiring a Federal permit
    • Projects receiving Federal funding
    • Required to look at connected actions as well
when does nepa not apply
When Does NEPA Not Apply?
  • Categorical Exclusions
  • Express Statutory Exemption
    • Certain EPA Laws Clean Air, Clean Water
    • Alaska Pipeline
    • Defense Base Closure Act
    • Disaster Relief Act
      • Certain disaster restoration projects
  • Processes determined by Court to be “Functionally Equivalent”
    • Superfund Act - RI/FS process

NEPA Process

Similar to Figure 1-6 in The NEPA Book

Categorical Exclusion?




Significant Impact ?










Notice of Intent & Scoping Process

Draft EIS

Coordination and analysis as needed

No significant impacts

Public Comment



Final EIS

Finding of No

Significant Impact (FONSI)

Record of Decision (ROD)

Agency Action

Agency Action

Agency Action


Accessed: January, 2007

nepa documents
NEPA “Documents”
  • Categorical Exclusion (CE)
  • Environmental Assessment (EA)
    • Case study for Thursday
  • Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
  • Notice of Intent (NOI)
  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
    • Draft, Final
  • Record of Decision (ROD)
requirements for an eis most also in ea
Requirements for an EIS(most also in EA)
  • Short, concise, stream-lined, integrated with other documents;
  • Rely on existing information where possible (incorporation and adoption);
  • Clearly and concisely discuss environmental issues
  • Consider reasonable range of alternatives including no impact (not so much in EA)
  • Consider cumulative impacts
  • Direct and indirect effects
nepa process brings in other laws more on february 23
Endangered Species Act – Section 7

Clean Air Act

Safe Water Drinking Act

Clean Water Act 404(b)(1)

Farmland Protection Policy Act

National Historic Preservation Act

Floodplains Laws

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Archeological and Historic Preservation Act

NEPA Process Brings in Other Laws (more on February 23)
  • Oil Pollution Act
  • Wilderness Act
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Farmland Protection Policy Act
  • Executive Order 12898 (Environmental Justice)
  • Public involvement, interagency coordination
  • Tribal consultation
  • Noise Standards
  • Public Hearing Requirements
final eis filings eas now dominant form of documentation
Final EIS Filings EAs now dominant form of documentation


Source: www.nepa.gov

filed eiss calendar year 2005
Filed EISs Calendar Year 2005

Source: www.nepa.gov

public intervention in nepa process more on august 4
Public Intervention in NEPA Process (more on August 4)
  • Commenting on the EIS and related documents required for any subsequent involvement
    • No provisions for administrative appeal
  • Civil Suits
    • Still require standing, exhaustion of admin process
    • Injunctive relief - for example, project is prohibited from proceeding until adequate EIS is completed
case study eas
Case Study - EAs
  • Original CEQ focus on EISs – little EA guidance
  • Contents
    • Purpose, need
    • Alternatives
    • Effects – direct, indirect, cumulative
    • Mitigation
    • Agencies, persons contacted
significantly affecting the human environment
“Significantly Affecting the Human Environment”
  • Significantly
    • Context – i.e. sensitive areas
    • Intensity - criteria in NEPA book p 49 (also in FS EAs)
    • Some agencies offer guidance - NY DEC
  • Human Environment
    • Human health
    • Natural environment
    • Built environment