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National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Passed by Congress in 1969 and signed into law on January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) broke new ground as the first major Federal legislative effort to incorporate environmental considerations into all government decision-making. 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347. NEPA fundamentally altered how lawmakers and regulators approached human impacts on the natural world by requiring federal agencies to prepare Environmental Impact Statements for all major Federal actions significantly affecting the environment. NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality to compile information on environmental conditions and trends, and to advise the President and federal agencies by appraising programs and activities of the federal government in light of NEPA’s policies. NEPA provides a source of goals and policies for federal agencies that is “supplementary” to those set forth in their own authorizing legislation. The Council on Environmental Quality’s 1978 regulations remain a key source of procedural protections, including public participation, cumulative impact assessment, and alternatives analysis. Legal and policy developments stemming from NEPA have profoundly affected the evolution of today’s U.S. environmental protection regime.

Training and Education

ELI works extensively to provide NEPA education and practical training for a spectrum of stakeholders, including NEPA training courses for:

  • The United States Forest Service
  • The National Park Service
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • The National Capital Planning Commission

ELI annually holds a continuing legal education course on NEPA in conjunction with the American Law Institute-American Bar Association. In 2010, ELI and The Partnership Project also hosted a National Environmental Policy Act 40th Anniversary Celebration.

NEPA-related ELI publications
NEPA and Regulations