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

By Valerie M. Fogleman | Go to book overview

3
Threshold Determinations

3.1 INTRODUCTION

NEPA requires federal agencies to prepare detailed statements for "major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 1 Before commencing any project, therefore, a federal agency must determine whether the proposed project is major, federal, an action, and whether it may affect the quality of the human environment. If an agency project meets all of these criteria, the agency must determine whether the environmental effects of the proposed action may be significant. Conversely, if even one of the criteria is not met, NEPA does not apply.

The courts, the CEQ, and the federal agencies have formulated a framework for complying with NEPA. Unless an action is categorically excluded from NEPA because an agency has determined that that type of action does not have significant environmental effects, the agency must either prepare an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS is the "detailed statement" referred to in NEPA.

An agency prepares an EA to aid it in making the significance or threshold determination. An EA must be followed either by a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or an EIS. Alternatively, the agency may determine, without preparing an EA, that the environmental effects of a proposed action may be significant. In that instance, the agency directly prepares the EIS.

This chapter examines and analyzes the case law and regulations construing the term "major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." The term was not defined in NEPA or its legislative history.

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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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