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Public Involvement With NEPA
(The following information was copied from the Council on Environmental Quality Executive Office of the President “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA, Having Your Voice Heard” December 2007, publication. https://ceq.doe.gov/docs/get-involved/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf)

The environmental review procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), established in January 1970, provides an opportunity for you to be involved in the federal agency decision making process. It will help you understand what the federal agency is proposing, to offer your thoughts on alternative ways for the agency to accomplish what it is proposing, and to offer your comments on the agency’s analysis of the environmental effects of the proposed action and possible mitigation of potential harmful effects of such actions. NEPA requires federal agencies to consider environmental effects that include, among others, impacts on social, cultural, and economic resources, as well as natural resources. Citizens often have helpful information about places and resources that they value and the potential environmental, social, and economic effects that proposed federal actions may have on those places and resources. NEPA’s requirements provide you the means to work with the agencies so they can take your information into account.

The primary responsibility is vested in the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), established by Congress in the NEPA. Congress placed CEQ in the Executive Office of the President and gave it many responsibilities, including the authority to ensure that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act. CEQ oversees implementation of NEPA, principally through issuance and interpretation of NEPA regulations that implement the procedural requirements of NEPA. CEQ also reviews and approves federal agency NEPA procedures, approves of alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA in the case of emergencies, and helps to resolve disputes between federal agencies and with other governmental entities and members of the public.

There are three federal agencies with NEPA responsibilities.

  • Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – Oversees implementation of NEPA. CEQ set minimum requirements based on specific mandates, obligations and missions for agencies to create their own implementing procedures.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Reviews environmental impact statements (EIS) and some environmental assessments (EA) issued by federal agencies. EPA provide comments to the public by publishing summaries and notice of federal agency actions in the Federal Register, and assist federal agencies in improving their NEPA analyses and decisions.
  • U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution – Assist in resolving conflicts over environmental issues by providing dispute resolutions alternatives to litigation and other adversarial approaches that involve federal agencies. They provide an independent, neutral place for federal agencies to work with citizens as well as state, local and tribal governments, private organizations and businesses to reach common ground.

Public Involvement
There are several opportunities to get involved in the NEPA process:

  • When the agency prepares its NEPA procedures;
  • Prior to and during preparation of a NEPA analysis;
  • When a NEPA document is published for public review and comment; and
  • When monitoring the implementation of the proposed action and the effectiveness of any associated mitigation.

Frequently, private individuals or companies will become involved in the NEPA process when they need a permit issued by a federal agency. When a company applies for a permit (for example, for crossing federal lands or impacting waters of the United States) the agency that is being asked to issue the permit must evaluate the environmental effects of the permit decision under NEPA. Federal agencies might require the private company or developer to pay for the preparation of analyses, but the agency remains responsible for the scope and accuracy of the analysis.

Public comments may be the most important contribution from citizens. Accordingly, comments should be clear, concise, and relevant to the analysis of the proposed action. Take the time to organize thoughts and edit the document submitted. As a general rule, the tone of the comments should be polite and respectful. Comments that are solution oriented and provide specific examples will be more effective than those that simply oppose the proposed project. Comments that contribute to developing alternatives that address the purpose and need for the action are also effective. They are particularly helpful early in the NEPA process and should be made, if at all possible, during scoping. This will ensure that reasonable alternatives can be analyzed and considered early in the process. The scoping process is the best time to identify the scope of issues, determine points of contact, establish project schedules and provide recommendations to the agency.

Public Concerns
First, don’t wait too long to raise your concerns; raise them as soon as practicable. If you just sit back and hope that things will get “better” or that your comments will have greater effect later, you may hear that “you should have raised this sooner.” At times, waiting can be detrimental to you as well as to the rest of the public and the agency involved. For example, if you feel strongly that a particular alternative should be addressed and do not raise it during the scoping process, then it will not get the benefit of comparative analysis with the other alternatives. In addition, it could result in a more expensive and lengthy process (costing taxpayers, including yourself, more) if your delayed suggestion results in the agency deciding to issue a supplemental EIS analyzing that alternative. Or if you, or your organization, later go to court to argue that a certain alternative should have been analyzed in the NEPA document, the judge may find that the court won’t consider that information because you should have raised your concern earlier during the NEPA process.

NEPA Procedures
NEPA requires federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in to their planning and decision-making process. Specifically, all federal agencies will prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. These statements are commonly referred to as Categorical Exclusion (CE), Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

NEPA

Environmental Impact Statements
The coastal storm risk management projects referenced in the Coastal Texas Study will likely have an environmental impact, necessitating the need to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS). This will help identify the preferred coastal storm risk management proposal in the Coastal Texas Study.

The environmental impact statement is a document prepared to describe the effects of proposed activities on the environment. The EIS presents the existing conditions of the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment. The EIS also includes the affect of an action to the existing conditions. The EIS considers the affects of an action to land, water, air, structures, living organisms, environmental values at the site, and the social, cultural and economic aspects. Below is flowchart of the timeline of an EIS Process.

Environmental Impact

Additional NEPA Information
http://www.NEPA.gov
http://ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/contacts.cfm

The list of Federal NEPA Contacts is maintained on NEPAnet (http://www.NEPA.gov) under the heading “National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)” and is periodically updated. The complete list is available via the link entitled “Federal NEPA Contacts” or available directly at http://ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/contacts.cfm.

If you do not have computer access, contact the Council on Environmental Quality for assistance:

722 Jackson Place, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Phone: 202-395-5750
Fax: 202-456-6546