The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that requires the identification and analysis of potential environmental effects of major proposed federal actions and alternatives before those actions take place. NEPA assures that environmental factors are considered equally with the technical and engineering components of a decision. NEPA requires federal agencies to identify all potential environmental effects and any adverse effects that cannot be avoided and to evaluate alternatives to the proposed action.
NEPA is a "full disclosure" law with provisions for public access to and full participation in the federal decision-making process. The act's intent is to protect, restore, or enhance the environment through well-informed federal decisions. There will be three major NEPA compliance documents associated with this action:
- A Draft EIS, which will evaluate and analyze significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts of alternative actions and will be distributed for public comment. It will include analyses of effects on natural resources (water, plants, and animals), cultural resources, land use, recreation, aesthetics, and the socioeconomic environment. The EIS will include a description of the baseline environmental and socioeconomic conditions against which effects of the proposed action are evaluated. It will also identify potential consequences and appropriate mitigation (methods to lessen adverse impacts) measures.
- A Final EIS, which will address public comments on the Draft EIS and recommend mitigation actions for significant impacts.
- A Record of Decision (ROD), which documents the final decision on the proposed action and specifies the needed mitigation measures and monitoring programs based on the information presented in the EIS.
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) offers more information on NEPA including the following: