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 provides 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
In December 2019, ELI presented a 50th anniversary NEPA celebration and continuing legal education course in cooperation with Denton's, Navigating NEPA 50 Years Later: The Past, Present, and Future. ELI for many years presented an annual CLE on NEPA in conjunction with the American Law Institute-American Bar Association. In 2010, ELI and The Partnership Project co-hosted the National Environmental Policy Act 40th Anniversary Celebration on Capitol Hill.
NEPA-related ELI publications & material
- Practitioners' Guide to the Proposed NEPA Regulations
- The Proposed NEPA Regulations: A Conversation With Nick Yost (season 2, episode 4, of People Places Planet Podcast)
- Nick Yost, NEPA at 50 , The Environmental Forum, Nov-Dec 2019, at 26 (providing an inside look at the original 1978 regulations).
- NEPA Success Stories: Celebrating 40 Years of Transparency and Open Government
- Considering NEPA: Comments to the National Environmental Policy Act Task Force
- Judging NEPA: A “Hard Look” at Judicial Decision Making Under the National Environmental Policy Act
- Rediscovering the National Environmental Policy Act: Back to the Future
- NEPA and Climate Change on Federal Lands