National Environmental Policy Act
42 U.S.C. 4321-4370d ; 40 CFR Parts 1500-1508. More information is available on NOAA's NEPA website.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the basic national charter for the protection of the environment. Its purpose is to "encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and the environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; and to enrich the understand of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation." The law requires the government to consider the consequences of major federal actions on human and natural aspects of the environment in order to minimize, where possible, adverse impacts. Equally important, NEPA established a process of environmental review and public notification for federal planning and decision making.
Generally, when it is uncertain whether an action will have a significant effect, federal agencies will begin the NEPA planning process by preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA may undergo a public review and comment period. Federal agencies may then review the comments and make a determination. Depending on whether an impact is considered significant, an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a finding of no significance (FONSI) will be issued.
The Trustees have integrated OPA restoration planning with the NEPA process to comply, in part, with those requirements. This integrated process allows the Trustees to meet the public involvement requirements of OPA and NEPA concurrently. Restoration Plans and EAs or EISs are intended to accomplish partial NEPA compliance by summarizing the current environmental setting; describing the purpose and need for restoration action; identifying alternative actions; assessing the preferred actions' environmental consequences; and summarizing opportunities for public participation in the decision process. Project-specific NEPA documents will need to be prepared for those proposed restoration projects not already analyzed in an environment assessment or environmental impact statement.