A brief explanation of
environmental impact statements

   WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460

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How  It Started
         On January 1, 1970, the President signed
           into law the National Environmental
           Policy Act (NEPA), which declared a
    national policy to encourage productive and
    enjoyable harmony between man and his
      In signing the bill, the President remarked
    that it was particularly fitting as his first official
    act of the new decade not only because it
    gave disparate Federal environmental efforts
    organization and direction, but because,
    "the 1970's absolutely must be the years when
    America pays its debt to the past by
    reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters  and
    our living environment. It is literally now
    or never."
      NEPA established in the Executive Office of
    the  President  a  Council on Environmental
    Quality (CEQ), charged with responsibility to
    study the condition of the Nation's environment,
    to develop new environmental programs and
    policies, to coordinate the wide array of
    Federal environmental efforts, to  see that  all
    Federal activities take  environmental con-
    siderations into  account and to assist the
    President in assessing environmental problems
    and in determining ways to solve them.
      To ensure that environmental  amenities and
    values are given systematic consideration
    equal to economic and technical considerations
    in the Federal decision-making process,
    NEPA requires each Federal agency  to prepare
    a statement of environmental impact in advance
    oj each major action, recommendation  or report
    on legislation  that may significantly affect the
    quality  oj the  human environment. Such actions
    may include new highway construction, harbor
    dredging or filling, nuclear power plant con-
    struction, large-scale aerial pesticide spraying,
    river channeling, new jet runways, munitions
    disposal, bridge construction and more.
What is  an  Environmental  Impact Statement?
A           environmental impact statement is the
          heart of a Federal  administrative
          process designed to ensure achievement
    of national environmental goals. Each statement
    must assess in detail the potential environmental

   " impact of a proposed action, and all Federal
   agencies are required to prepare statements for
   matters under their jurisdiction.
      As early in the decision-making process as
   possible, and in all cases prior to agency
   decision, an agency prepares a draft statement
   for review by  appropriate Federal, State and
   local environmental agencies as well as the
   public. After  comment from the agencies  and
   interested parties, the statement is prepared
   in final form, incorporating all comments and
   objections  received on the draft and indicating
   how significant issues raised during the
   commenting process have been resolved. Both
   draft and final statement are filed with CEQ and
   made available to the public.
      Impact statements are  popularly called
   E.I.S.'s  (Environmental Impact  Statements).
 urpose of the  Statement
        The statement's primary purpose is to
        disclose the environmental conse-
        quences of a proposed action, thus
   alerting the agency decision-maker, the public
   and ultimately Congress and the President to
   the environmental risks involved. An important
   and intended consequence of this is to build
   into a Federal agency's decision-making
   process a continuing consciousness of environ-
   mental considerations. This, in turn, ensures
   to the fullest extent possible that the agency
   directs its policies, plans and programs so as
   to meet national environmental goals.
Vhat Actions  Must  Statements  Cover?
        The actions for which agencies must
        prepare impact statements must be
        "major" and "environmentally
   significant," such as:
     1.  Agency recommendations on their own
         proposals for legislation.
     2.  Agency reports on legislation initiated
         elsewhere but concerning subject  matter
         for which the agency has primary
     3.  Projects and continuing  activities  which
         may be
         a.  undertaken directly by an agency;
         b.  supported in whole or in part through


             Federal contracts, grants, subsidies,
             loans or other forms of funding
             assistance; or
          c.  part of a  Federal lease, permit.
             license, certificate or other entitle-
             ment for use.
      4.  Decisions of policy, regulation and
      All of the following actions are considered
    major and/or environmentally significant.
       1.  Actions whose impact is significant and
          highly controversial on environmental
      2.  Actions which are precedents for much
          larger actions which may have  consider-
          able  environmental impact.
      3.  Actions which are decisions in principle
          about major future courses of action.
      4.  Actions which are major because of the
          involvement of several Federal agencies,
          even though a particular agency's indi-
          vidual action  is not major.
      5.  Actions whose impact includes envi-
          ronmentally beneficial as well as envi-
          ronmentally detrimental effects.
Contents  of the Statement
ach environmental impact statement
 must include:
       1.  A detailed description of the proposed
    action including information and technical data
    adequate to permit a careful assessment of
    environmental impact.
       2.  Discussion of the probable impact on the
    environment, including any impact on
    ecological systems and any direct or indirect
    consequences that may result  from the action.
       3.  Any adverse environmental effects that
    cannot be avoided.
       4.  Alternatives to the proposed action that
    might avoid some or all of the adverse
    environmental effects, including analysis of
    costs  and environmental impacts of these
       5.  An assessment of the  cumulative,
    long-term effects of  the proposed action includ-
    ing its relationship to short-term use of
    the environment versus the environment's
    long-term productivity.

    6.  Any irreversible or irretrievable commit-
  ment of resources that might result from the
  action or which would curtail beneficial use of
  the environment.
    A final impact statement must include
  a discussion of problems and  objections
  raised by other Federal,  State and local
  agencies, private organizations and individuals
  during the draft statement's review process.

 tat Does a Statement Look  Like?
       Ai environmental impact statement varies
        in length according  to  the complexity
        of the  proposed action under review.
  Each statement ordinarily  is introduced by a
  summary sheet  suggesting the nature of its
  contents; e.g.:
        Environmental Impact Statement
  Draft 	       Final 	
  Name of responsible or principal agency
  and appropriate operating  division.
    1.  Administrative action	
  Legislative action	
    2.  Brief description of action, indicating
  States and counties particularly affected.
    3.  Summary of  environmental impact and
  adverse environmental affects.
    4.  List of  alternatives considered.
    5.  For draft statement, a list of all
  Federal, State and local agencies from which
  comments have been requested.
       For final statement, a list of all
  Federal, State and local agencies and other
  sources from which written comments have
  been received.
    6.  Dates draft and final statements are filed
  with CEQ and made available to the public.

len is a  Statement  Prepared?
A       raft statement must be prepared and
        circulated for comment at least 90 days
        before the proposed  action. A final
  statement must be made public at least
  30 days before the proposed  action.  Any
  agency unable to meet these requirements must
  consult with  CEQ.
    Each agency must identify at what stage or
  stages in a series of actions relating to a
  particular matter, that an environmental impact
  statement will be prepared. Often it may

be necessary to write a statement both in the
development of a national program and in the
review of proposed projects within a national
program. A duplicate clearance process is
not always mandatory, but when actions being
considered differ significantly from those
that have been reviewed already, a new
statement should be written.
   It is the responsibility of each agency to
obtain views of other agencies and interested
parties at the earliest feasible time in the devel-
opment of program and project proposals.
   To the maximum extent practicable, impact
statements must be prepared for  continuing
major Federal actions significantly affecting the
environment even though they arise from
projects  or programs initiated prior to enact-
ment of NEPA.  Where it is not practicable,
it is still  important that further incremental
actions be shaped to minimize adverse
environmental consequences and to account
for environmental consequences  not fully
evaluated at the outset of a project or program.
   The greatest use should be  made of existing
interagency  and intergovernmental review
How Does an  Agency Prepare  a Statement?

       NEPA directs each agency  to establish
        procedures for dealing with environ-
        mental impact statements, those pre-
pared inhouse and those reviewed for  comment.
   Agency procedures must:
   1.  Identify those agency actions requiring
environmental statements.
   2.  Designate the  appropriate  time prior to
decision to seek comments of other agencies.
   3.  Describe the mechanisms through which
statements  are to be made  available to
the public.
   4.  Specify general methods for obtaining
information required in the preparation
of a statement.
   5.  Designate officials responsible for
   6.  Establish patterns for consulting with
and taking into account the comments of'other
agencies, particularly EPA.
   7.  Provide for  timely public announcement

   of plans and programs with environmental
      NEPA goes a step beyond requiring new
   actions to be environmentally sound by
   directing all Federal agencies to review their
   present statutory authority, administrative
   regulations and current policies and procedures
   for the purpose of determining whether there
   are any deficiencies or inconsistencies  therein
   which prohibit full compliance with the Act.
   Still further, agencies  must propose "such
   measures  as may be necessary to bring their
   authority  and policies into conformity  with the
   intent, purposes  and procedures set forth
   in this Act."
     In other words,  agencies must not only begin
   to meet NEPA  requirements for  decisions
   yet unmade, but must seek to realign their
   standard operating procedures with national
   environmental goals.
Vho  Reviews  Each  Statement?

         NEPA requires each Federal agency to
           "consult with and obtain the comments
           of any other agency (including State
   and local as well as Federal) which has
   jurisdiction by law or special expertise with
   respect to any environmental impact involved"
   in an impact statement.
      In its guidelines  for  preparing  statements,
   CEQ lists  the  agencies  which must be  con-
   sulted on this basis in the following areas:
     air quality and air pollution control
     weather modification
     environmental aspects of electric energy gener-
     ation and transmission
     natural gas energy development, generation
     and transmission
     toxic materials
     transportation and handling of hazardous
     coastal areas:  wetlands,  estuaries,  waterfowl
     refuges and beaches
     historic and archeological sites
     flood plains and watersheds
     mineral land reclamation

     parks, forests and outdoor recreational areas
     soil and plant life, sedimentation, erosion and
      hydrologic conditions
     noise control and abatement
     chemical contamination of food products
     food additives and food sanitation
     microbiological contamination
     radiation and radiological health
     sanitation and waste  systems
     shellfish sanitation
     transportation and air quality
     transportation and water quality
     congestion in urban areas, housing and
      building displacement
     environmental effects with special impact on
      low-income  neighborhoods
     rodent control
     urban  planning
     water quality and water pollution control
     marine pollution
     river and canal regulation and stream
      The guidelines also require draft statements
    to be made available for public comment. Many
    individual agency procedures  allow for direct
    solicitation of  such comments from interested
    parties and private organizations.
      If an agency is in doubt as to  the proper
    recipients of its request for comments, CEQ
    will advise on  an appropriate  routing.
The  Role of  CEQ
          CEQ is the central Federal force behind
          the impact statement process. CEQ as-
          sists other agencies whenever and wher -
    ever necessary in determining the applicability  of
    NEPA to agency actions and in promulgating
    agency procedures to meet NEPA requirements.
    CEQ also assists in resolving any conflicts that
    may arise.
      The Council's role is a coordinating one; it
    is not a commenting agency in the sense that
    its comments  are attached to impact state-
    ments. Thus no inference of either approval or
    disapproval is to be drawn from CEQ's failure
    to comment on either draft or final statements.

 As long as a statement is made available to
 CEQ, that agency will be able to fulfill its role
 of internal adviser to the Executive Branch
 and to the President as contemplated
 by NEPA.
   CEQ's  guidelines for preparing E.I.S.'s on
 proposed  Federal actions  affecting  the  en-
 vironment were issued Aug. 1, 1973 in the
 Federal Register.
e Role  of EPA

      EPA reviews environmental impact state-
        ments touching any aspect of its re-
        sponsibilities centering around air and
 water pollution, drinking water supplies, solid
 waste, pesticides, radiation and noise. In
 addition to reviewing statements filed by
 Federal agencies, EPA frequently  reviews
 statements filed by States and other jurisdic-
 tions as a technical service.
   Periodically, EPA lists in the Federal Regis-
 ter statements it has reviewed and  commented
 on, coding the nature of its comments. The
 code generally indicates endorsement of the
 proposed action, request for more  information
 to determine environmental damage or objec-
 tion to the action on environmental grounds.
   EPA's obligation to review proposed Fed-
 erally supported actions extends beyond that of
 other agencies because of its role as the principal
 Federal regulator of pollution control matters.
   Under Section 309 of the Clean Air
 Act, EPA must "review and comment in
 writing on the environmental impact" of any
 legislation, action or regulation proposed by
 any Federal agency if it affects matters related
 to EPA's jurisdiction. If EPA determines
 that any proposed activity is unsatisfactory
 from the standpoint of public health or welfare
 or environmental quality, that determination
 must be published and the  matter referred
 to CEQ.
   EPA notifies the public of these comments
 in the same manner that notification is made
 of comments on impact statements. Generally,
 EPA has no authority to  stop a project
 sponsored by another Federal agency; it
 acts only in an advisory capacity to other
 agencies, CEQ and the President.

Impact  Statements  and the  Public
     The impact statement procedure affords
      the public an opportunity to participate
      in Federal decisions that may affect the
human environment.  Each draft statement
must be made public by the responsible
agency at the time it is circulated for com-
ment, a date not less than 90 days before the
proposed action. Comments must be made
available also, and the final statement must
include  a discussion of the objections and
problems raised in comments on the draft. The
final statement must be made public at least
30 days prior to the proposed action.
  Statements are announced in the  Federal
Register, although many agencies have
supplementary procedures to reach interested
citizens. EPA, for example, generally notifies
the press (1) when a decision is reached to
issue an impact statement, (2) when a draft
or final statement is prepared and (3) when
comments on other agencies' statements are
issued. Interested parties may view EPA's own
impact statements or EPA's comments on the
statements of other  agencies by contacting EPA
headquarters in Washington, B.C. or any of its
ten regional offices. The agency welcomes public
  EPA does not distribute impact statements
prepared by other agencies. These are available
directly from the agencies bearing primary
  Interested people may submit comments to
agencies on any impact statement issued by
them. If an individual believes a drajt state-
ment to be inadequate, he may offer written
comments on the draft. If he believes the
disposition of his comment in the final
statement to be inadequate, he may  so notify
the  agency involved and inform CEQ.
In addition to these mechanisms for public
participation, many agencies provide for public
hearings not only at various stages during the
performance of their statutory missions but
during the impact statement process itself.
  The importance of the  role citizens play in
the impact statement process has been recog-
nized by the courts. In many cases,
the courts have upheld the right, or standing,
of citizens to sue on environmental grounds.

Impact  Statements  and the  Courts
        Since NEPA  went into effect Federal
        courts have increasingly given more
        substance to the law's requirement for
    environmental impact statements. Suits charging
    violation of that  section have dealt essentially
    with two significant questions: (1) whether
    a Federal agency should be required'to write
    impact statements;  (2)  to  v/hat extent courts
    should review the content  of  statements
    already written.
      Cases have been filed in widely varying
    situations. Calvert Cliffs (Md.) Coordinating
    Committee vs. AEC was an early landmark case
    which set the direction of Federal agencies'
    NEPA responsibilities. The AEC was required
    to revise its  activities to systematically
    analyze environmental impacts. Since  then,
    Courts have handed down numerous decisions
    expanding Federal agency  responsibilities under
    NEPA. Two  important  decisions indicate
    how courts have  dealt with NEPA inter-
      Ely vs. Velde, decided by the U.S. Court of
    Appeals for the Fourth Circuit required the
    Law Enforcement Assistance  Administration
    of the Department of Justice to prepare an
    impact statement in approving Federal funds
   for construction  of a prison reception  and
   medical center in Virginia. The court took
   account of "LEAA's overall involvement in
   the promotion and planning  of the Center,  as
   well as the  cumulative impact of the proposed
   Federal action" in  applying NEPA to  a
   block grant situation where LEAA paid only
   20 percent  of the construction cost of the
   prison. Federal retention of the promotion and
   planning responsibilities  was  considered
   sufficient to bring the action within  NEPA.
   In this decision, the Court greatly expanded
   the  definition of actions affected by NEPA.
   The decision  has  meant applying NEPA to a
   wide range  of Federal activities.
     The U.S.  Supreme Court has greatly
   extended the  range  of considerations in
   judicially reviewing  the substantive  content of
   impact statements. Warm Springs Task Force
   vs Gribble temporarily halted  further con-
   struction of the Warm Springs  Dam  Project in
   the  Russian  River Basin, California. The
   Court gave  great  deference to  findings by the

    Council  on Environmental  Quality  that the
    Army Corps  of  Engineers  statement  did  not
    adequately consider the safety and  water
    quality effects of the  project.  The  Court
    required the Corps to revise its impact state-
    ment and ordered the lower Court to review
    this revised statement  in light of CEQ's findings.
    Thus, for the first time, CEQ's findings as
    principal overseer of the NEPA process were
    considered bv a  Federal Court.
What's  Happening?
         The impact statement process has been
         designed  to build into Federal agency
         thinking  an  environmental concern not
    heretofore implemented on  an effective  scale.
    Just  as  court interpretations are increasing
    general  public  environmental  awareness,
    changes are being made within the structure of
    the Federal Government that  will have pro-
    found influence on future Federal activities.
      Half of all environmental impact statements
    have been  written for roadbuilding actions
    undertaken by  the Federal Highway Admin-
    istration. The  statements have resulted in
    significant planning changes. Examples include
    increased landscaping, the creation of hiking
    and bicycle trails along roadways, and, most
    importantly, the integration  of mass transit
    routes into highway corridors  and the  overall
    coordination of highways into urban trans-
    portation system plans.
      After highway  construction, the  second
    largest  number of  statements have been  pre-
    pared for watershed protection and flood
    control  projects. A portion  of these  projects
    are developed  by  the  U.S. Army Corps of
    Engineers. Since NEPA was enacted, the Corps
    not  only has established several  citizen
    environmental  advisory committees but  has
    increased its interdisciplinary  environmental
    staff  by  adding recreation resource planners,
    landscape  architects, biologists, and foresters.
      There has been a noticeable increase in the
    preparation of  impact statements in the
    energy  related  area. The Energy Policy Office
    prepared an impact statement on  its priority
    system  for allocating low-sulfur petroleum
    products. The  Interior  Department has
    prepared impact statements on  the  sale of

 oil and  gas leases on the Outer Continental
 Shelf, on leasing Federal lands for  oil shale and
 geothermal development, and on its coal
 mining plans.
   Future statements  on coal development will
 examine the physical effects of proposed
 strip mining, .the  competition between mining
 and existing uses of the land and water, and
 the comparative environmental costs of using
 coal as opposed to other energy sources.
   As a direct result of NEPA's review process,
 a number of Federally-sponsored  projects
 have been suspended  in recent years and many
 more have been modified to protect the
   For example, in March 1972, a draft impact
 statement was  prepared for a  proposed
 1760-foot pier  for ocean research which would
 extend into the Atlantic from Maryland's
 Assateague  Island National Seashore.  The
 area is one  of the few remaining natural
 barriers  along  the  nation's eastern  coastline
 under public ownership.  Because of numerous
 opposing comments on the statement, the
 Corps  of Engineers cancelled all construction
   Another project cancelled was a proposed
 dredging operation to improve safety for barge
 crossings in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
 from Carrabelle to the St. Marks River, Fla.
 The project was suspended when it was
 determined that the dredging would adversely
 affect the natural habitat of shellfish  and other
 fish in the area.
   Another project cancelled was a proposal by
 the Department of Health, Education, and
 Welfare for an incinerator to handle wastes
 from the Bethesda Naval  Hospital, Walter
 Reed Army Medical Center, and the National
 Institutes of Health Bethesda Campus. After
 the draft impact statement showed several
 preferable alternative  means of disposal, the
 HEW scuttled plans for the incinerator.
   We  are beginning to witness as environ-
 mental considerations are integrated into
 Federal agencies' plans,  programs,  and policy
 making,  the elimination, before they reach
 the drawing board, of projects which would
 have had a  significant impact on  the environ-
 ment. This so-called  "institutionalization"  of
NEPA was  the foremost  objective  of legis-
lators and administrators who vigorously

    pursued the enactment,  and now the  imple-
    mentation, of the law.
Trends  in  State and  Local Governments
          Recognizing the need for broader
          consideration  of  environmental  conse-
          quences at an early  date, a number of
    states have  passed statutes requiring environ-
    mental  impact  statements on  state actions
    analogous to the statements required of Federal
    agencies by NEPA.  These states  include
    California, Indiana,  Maryland, Massachusetts,
    Minnesota,  Montana, Connecticut, Hawaii,
    South Dakota,  North Carolina, Virginia,
    Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as  the
    Commonwealth  of Puerto Rico. New  Jersey,
    Michigan, and Texas have implemented impact
    statement requirements  through Executive
    Order.  In addition,  Arizona,  Delaware,
    Georgia, Nebraska and Nevada have  required
    impact  statements to be prepared  for  certain
    limited classes of projects.
      Similar action was being considered in
    approximately fifteen other states.
      Even  though  the  implementation of these
    State programs has been slow and the net
    effect so far appears to be fairly small, there
    is a widespread interest in NEPA-type  State
    legislation and with good reason. The potential
    value of environmental impact  statement
    requirements in  the states is at least as great
    as at the Federal level.
      All in all, important  innovations in  Federal
    and  State environmental regulations  are taking
    place. At both  levels, the pace of institu-
    tional development in environmental manage-
    ment has increased significantly over the
    last few years.
    The reader is free to quote or reproduce any part
      of this publication without further permission.

    U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency
           Washington,  D.C. 20460
Regional Offices
Boston,  Massachusetts
New York, New York
States covered
Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island

New Jersey, New York
Puerto Rico, Virgin
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  Delaware,  Maryland
19106                    Pennsylvania, Virginia
                         West Virginia, D.C.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Dallas, Texas 75201
Kansas City, Missouri

Denver, Colorado 80203
San Francisco, California
Seattle, Washington
Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, Kentucky,
North Carolina,
South Carolina,

Illinois,  Indiana,
Michigan,  Minnesota,
Ohio, Wisconsin

Arkansas,  Louisiana,
New Mexico, Oklahoma,

Iowa, Kansas,
Missouri, Nebraska

Colorado,  Montana,
North Dakota,
South Dakota,
Utah, Wyoming
Arizona, California,
Hawaii,  Nevada,
American Samoa, Guam,
Trust Territories of the
Pacific, Wake Island

Alaska,  Idaho,
Oregon, Washington
                December 1974
           WASHINGTON, D. C. 20460