The EPA’s NEPA Process

EIS determination tree

NEPA’s Forty Most Asked Questions

The EIS process is completed in the following ordered steps:

1)    Notice of Intent (NOI): is published in the Federal Register by the lead Federal agency and signals the initiation of the process.

2)    Draft EIS: The draft EIS provides a detailed description of the proposal, the purpose and need, reasonable alternatives, the affected environment, and presents analysis of the anticipated beneficial and adverse environmental effects of the alternatives.

3)    Final EIS: Following a formal comment period and receipt of comments from the public and other agencies, the FEIS will be developed and issued. The FEIS will address the comments on the draft and identify, based on analysis and comments, the “preferred alternative”.

4)    Record of decision (ROD)

Purpose and Need: drives the development of the range of alternatives; some of the common needs include:

  • transportation demand
  • safety
  • legislative direction
  • urban transportation plan consistency
  • modal interrelationships
  • system linkage
  • and the condition of an existing facility

Alternatives: describes the process that was used to develop, evaluate, and eliminate potential alternatives based on the purpose and need of the project. The discussion should include how alternatives were selected for detailed study, the reasons why some alternatives were eliminated from consideration and describe how the alternatives meet the need for the project and avoid or minimized environmental harm.

Affected Environment: generally this section should focus on the important issues in order to provide an understanding of the project area relative to the impacts of the alternatives and should discuss:

  • the importance of the potential impacts
  • the existing social, economic, and environmental settings surrounding the project
  • should also identify environmentally sensitive features in the project corridor

Environmental Consequences: This section should describe in detail both the impacts of the proposed action and the potential measures that could be taken to mitigate these impacts. Mitigation must be considered for all impacts, regardless of their significance. Environmental impacts should be discussed in terms of their context and intensity.

  • Class I actions significantly affect the environment; these actions require an EIS
  • Class II actions do not significantly affect the environment; excluded from requirement
  • Class III actions are those for which the significance of environmental impacts is not clearly established; an EA is prepared to determine the appropriate environmental document required

Please bear in mind that collaboration within the NEPA context is a relatively new thing. By clicking here, you will find “The Handbook for NEPA Practitioners,” a wonderful guide that might be helpful for agencies as well as individuals interested in understanding this process.

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