Guide to the National Environmental Policy Act: Interpretations, Applications, and Compliance

By Valerie M. Fogleman | Go to book overview

1
The National Environmental Policy Act

1.1 INTRODUCTION

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. The act was described by one of its authors as "the most important and far-reaching environmental and conservation measure ever enacted by the Congress." 1 NEPA is broad. It applies to all federal agencies and to every major action taken by the agencies that significantly affects the quality of the human environment. NEPA supplements all statutes not in conflict with it. Thus not only does NEPA give federal agencies the power to consider the environmental effects of their proposed actions, it requires them to consider the effects before proceeding with the actions.

NEPA's brevity contrasts sharply with the lengthy and complex environmental laws enacted after it. NEPA's brevity, however, is matched by its ambiguity. As Justice Thurgood Marshall stated: "[T]his vaguely worded statute seems designed to serve as no more than a catalyst for development of a 'common law' of NEPA."2 This book analyzes NEPA, the court decisions interpreting NEPA, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing NEPA, and court decisions interpreting those regulations.

Chapter 1 examines NEPA's legislative history and its provisions. The extent of NEPA's application to federal agencies is examined, as is its application to ongoing agency actions at the time of its enactment. The continuing debate on whether NEPA extends to agency actions conducted in the United States when the only environmental effects of the actions occur outside the United States is also discussed.

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Guide to the National Environmental Policy Act: Interpretations, Applications, and Compliance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Title Page vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Acronyms xv
  • 1 - The National Environmental Policy Act 1
  • 1.1 INTRODUCTION 1
  • Notes 16
  • 2 - Administrative Structure for Implementing Nepa 28
  • Notes 46
  • 3 - Threshold Determinations 56
  • 3.1 INTRODUCTION 56
  • Notes 66
  • 4 - Environmental Assessments 77
  • 4.1 INTRODUCTION 77
  • Notes 95
  • 5 - Environmental Impact Statements 110
  • 5.1 INTRODUCTION 110
  • Notes 142
  • 6 - Nepa Litigation 168
  • 6.1 INTRODUCTION 168
  • Notes 194
  • 7 - State Statutes 213
  • 7.1 INTRODUCTION 213
  • Notes 248
  • Appendix A The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 249
  • Appendix B The Council on Environmental Quality Regulations 257
  • Bibliography 301
  • Index 305
  • About the Author 311
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