The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an environmental law constituting a national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment. The main focus of NEPA is to assure that environmental factors are prioritized equally when compared to other factors in the decision making process undertaken by federal agencies. A significant impact NEPA has made is setting requirements for all federal government agencies when developing Environmental Assessments (EAs) as well as Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). These documents contain information regarding the environmental effects of proposed federal agencies actions. This law is applied to any project local, state, or federal, that involves work performed by the federal government, federal funding as well as permits issued by federal agency.
There are three levels of analysis that occur once a proposal has been developed and deemed covered by NEPA. These include:
Categorical Exclusion (CE): is a category of actions that the agency has determined does not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment; therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.
Environmental Assessment (EA): a prepared proposal to assist in the determination of unknown significant impacts on a project. It will include a brief discussion of the need, the alternatives as well as a list of persons and agencies consulted in regards to the proposal.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): is a full disclosure document created once it’s been determined that significant impacts will result in a proposed project. EIS will provide the purpose and need of the project, the alternatives, the resources and condition of the affected environment along with the environmental consequences as well as comments and coordination.