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National Environmental Policy (NEPA) Compliance
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was established, in part, “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…” [42 USC § 4321].
How Does NEPA Affect Your Project?
Laws and Regulations
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) mandates all federal agencies to review the effects of their actions, and alternatives to those actions, on the quality of the human environment. Federal actions include such things as the issuing of permits, promulgating new regulations, and financing of projects.
To perform an environmental review of a proposed action, the proposed project is superimposed upon both the existing (i.e., baseline) biophysical and socioeconomic parameters to assess the resulting beneficial and adverse impacts on the quality of the human environment. These environmental parameters are commonly referred to as “NEPA topics” and are addressed in varying degrees at the discretion of the federal agency, given its perception of the severity of negative impacts associated with the proposed action upon various site- and regional-specific parameters of the human environment. The environmental review often includes input from other coordinating agencies (as well as the general public) and can take several forms that may be progressive and/or approached in an iterative manner by the agency. For example, the federal agency’s environmental review could begin and end with the submittal of a permit application, progress to the agency’s (or permit applicant’s) preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or, depending on the outcome of the initial EA, could progress to the agency’s (or the permit applicant consultant) preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to address all agency and public concerns related to the proposed federal action.
What Is Involved In A NEPA Environmental Review?
The scope of work to satisfy a specific permitting and/or action agency at either the state or federal level begins with reviewing the proposed project with the agency to identify what environmental issues they perceive need to be specifically addressed in either an informal or formal manner. An informal environmental review may be limited to specific data requested by the agency to review and include in their permitting process. More formal environmental reviews for larger, more complex projects can range from an Environmental Assessment (EA) to provide a basis for a potential Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The timeframe for completing environmental reviews can range from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the complexity of the project, the agency’s perception of significant negative impacts, and potential public and private interest group involvement.
Horizon has assisted both public and private clients with NEPA compliance on projects ranging from major pipeline construction, oil and gas exploration, electrical transmission, wind energy development, transportation, flood control, and land and water development projects. We have successfully prepared scores of categorical exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements. If you are unsure whether your project is subject to review under NEPA, please contact one of Horizon’s NEPA Specialists for more information, and we will be happy to assist you in understanding what may or may not be required. Because of the potentially lengthy NEPA Process, anytime that NEPA is involved as one of the permitting parameters for your project, early planning is critical to your project’s success.
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