What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the basic national charter for protection of the environment. NEPA establishes policy, sets goals, provides means for carrying out policy, and contains provisions to ensure that federal agencies act according to the letter and spirit of the Act.

The Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Highway Administration have regulations that outline what FHWA and other federal agencies must do to comply with NEPA. Preparing documents such as Environmental Impact Statements is part of complying with NEPA.

Producing environmental documentation is often called the NEPA process. These procedures ensure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken. Accurate scientific analysis, comments from expert agencies, and public scrutiny are essential to implementing NEPA.

Ultimately, the NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on an understanding of environmental consequences.

The President, federal agencies and courts share responsibility for enforcing NEPA.

Most important, NEPA documents must concentrate on the issues that are truly significant to the action in question, rather than amassing needless detail.

Page last modified: Oct. 14, 2012