The National Environmental Policy Act Today, with an Emphasis on Its Application across U.S. Borders

By Schiffer, Lois J. | Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

The National Environmental Policy Act Today, with an Emphasis on Its Application across U.S. Borders


Schiffer, Lois J., Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum


I. BACKGROUND

The National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") was enacted in 1969 and became effective on January 1, 1970. (1) A hallmark environmental law, it has important aspirational components, a number of substantive provisions, a section establishing the Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ"), and a requirement that, "to the fullest extent possible," 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 the environment[al] impact of the proposed action ..." and other specified requirements. (2) This Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") requirement has become, over time, a central feature of NEPA and indeed, in the public mind, the primary feature of the statute.

The Environmental Review (comprising the EIS and the Environmental Assessment ("EA") component of NEPA) serves several critical purposes: it obliges the agency to develop effective information about the environmental impacts of a proposed action; it obliges the agency decision-maker to consider "every significant aspect of the environmental impact of a proposed action;" (3) and it involves the public in the agency's decision-making process. (4) Court review of agency application of NEPA, while somewhat deferential to agencies, is crucial to keeping agencies honest in applying NEPA, just as court review of substantive agency decisions under the Administrative Procedure Act and similar provisions in other statutes assures that agency exercise of discretion is within the bounds of the law. Thus, judicial decision-making plays a significant role in the operation of NEPA.

In early 1995, NEPA turned twenty-five. A review at that time of its evolution revealed that the Act had stood the test of time well. Its growth has followed many steps. Courts gave meaning to the short paragraphs of the statute. The CEQ issued guidance and later promulgated regulations interpreting the statute. Virtually every agency adopted its own NEPA regulations applying the CEQ regulations to its own activities. (5) Through court interpretation and agency regulation, agencies came to have a reasonably clear idea of when a full EIS was required and when a more short-form EA would be sufficient. Under CEQ regulations, a "categorical exclusion" process developed allowing agencies to undertake routine actions without an EIS or EA. The public actively participated in the EIS process, and therefore in the agency decision-making process. Agency decision-makers more fully took environmental information and values into account as a result of the NEPA process. At mellow middle age, NEPA was energetic and effective.

To understand the effect of the EIS requirements on agency decision-making, it is helpful to know that agencies issue approximately 500 EISs and 50,000 EAs each year. Each EIS must be filed with the EPA, which then publishes a notice of its availability in the Federal Register. (6)

States and other countries have emulated NEPA. The CEQ website lists seventeen states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that have laws similar to NEPA. (7) Further, over one hundred countries, as well as many international organizations such as the World Bank, have analogous laws and procedures. (8) The United States has been considered a model of environmental leadership, in part because of the importance of its environmental review process.

So what is happening to NEPA as middle age wears on? This article will focus on two conditions of NEPA's advancing middle age. First, efforts by the Bush Administration to limit this important tool through statutory interpretation, litigation, and legislation to the detriment of the statute and to United States global leadership in environmental issues will be discussed. Then, the influence of NEPA beyond U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The National Environmental Policy Act Today, with an Emphasis on Its Application across U.S. Borders
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.