The National Environmental Policy Act. An Overview Horst G Greczmiel Associate Director for NEPA Oversight Council on Environmental Quality November 2013. History and Purpose of NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT (NEPA). Senator Jackson summarized its purposes as:
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Horst G Greczmiel
Associate Director for NEPA Oversight
Council on Environmental Quality
Senator Jackson summarized its purposes as:
April 16, 1969, hearing introduced the concept of an environmental impact statement (referred to as a “finding”) and the need for an action-forcing provision to obtain compliance from federal agencies.
Protest following the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill
At least a dozen fires occurred on
the Cuyahoga River since 1868. The
most famous fire was in 1969.
Smog in Houston, TX
“The nineteen-seventies absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purityof its air, its waters and our living environment. It is literally now or never.” Richard M. Nixon, January 1, 1970
Sen. Muskie obtained amendments for future air and water standards (sec. 104) and changed “finding” requirement to a “detailed statement” with alternatives and consultation required.
Conference committee rejected limitation of federal agency responsibility – required compliance with NEPA’s action-forcing provisions “to the fullest extent possible.”
President Nixon opposed, but signed NEPA as the first statute of the decade.
Congress enacted the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.
The House of Representatives adopted NEPA by a vote of 372 to 15. 115 CONG. REC. 19,013 (1969).
The Senate passed NEPA by voice vote without recorded dissent. 115 CONG. REC. 26,590 (1969).
The purposes of this Act are: To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.
Sec. 2 [42 USC § 4321]
all agencies of the Federal Government shall --
utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decisionmaking which may have an impact on man's environment
Section 102(2)(A) 42 United States Code §4332(2)(A)
“All federal agencies shall: . . .
include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on
Section 102(2)(C), 42 United States Code §4332(2)(C)
Responsible for promulgation and interpretation of NEPA regulations
A. “Substantial deference” by the Supreme Court.
B. Role set out in regulations:
1. Review of agency NEPA procedures
2. Designation of lead agency
3. Alternative arrangements for supplemental EISs
4. Alternative arrangements for emergencies
C. Dispute resolution
– Referral process, 40 CFR 1504
– Informal coordination
Categorical Exclusion (CE / CATEX)
Environmental Assessment (EA)
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Available for 30 day public review if:
(40 CFR 1504(e)(2))
The early and open process to determine scope of issues and identify the significant issues related to a proposed action
(Section 309, Clean Air Act)
NEPA's purpose is not to generate paperwork--even excellent paperwork--but to foster excellent action. The NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment.