Environmental Impact Statements
Background Information

The National Environmental Policy Act - Overview Actions covered
Almost anything involving federal land or money, for example: The environmental impact statement (EIS) process
Each government agency has specific regulations, but follows the same general procedures.
  1. Notice of intent must be issued in the Federal Register and area newspapers. Announcements of public meetings must also be announced publicly.
  2. Public, federal and state agencies and Native American tribes are asked to give their comments and to better define the issues that should be covered ("scoping"). Comments received are responded to and included in the final document. Those commenting on a proposal are often called "stakeholders". These might include local residents, those with a commercial or political interest in the proposed action, or any other interested parties.
  3. A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is written and issued
  4. A 45-day (minimum) period is required for public comment
  5. The federal agency issues a final EIS that responds to oral and written comments received during the public review of the draft.
  6. After a 60-day waiting period, the agency issues a record of decision. The federal agency may then begin implementation of its decision.
Some proposed actions merit a "categorical exclusion" and do not have to follow the process at all. If an action was studied in past and no significant impact was found, or if it can be compared to different activities that the law defines as not having significant impact, then no further studies are necessary. The agency can implement its proposed action.

If an action is likely to have significant impacts on the environment, an EIS is required. If the effects are unknown, a less detailed study or an environmental assessment (EA) is prepared. The EA is overview of potential impacts; it is used to determine whether an EIS is necessary.

Focus of an environmental impact statement

The process does not dictate that an agency choose the most environmentally friendly alternative, nor does it dictate choosing the least expensive. The purpose of the process is to ensure that necessary and accurate studies are done, that they are done with public involvement, and that public officials make decisions based on an understanding of environmental consequences.

Not all things are considered. For example, in an EIS to determine whether nuclear waste would be stored in Yucca Mt., NV, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act provided that the EIS did not have to cover:

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Last update: 4/18/02 by Rebecca Burton, Dept. of Biology, Alverno College