Golden field landscape at sunset

There’s a lot of confusion about what the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) does. Some of the most common misconceptions include the belief that NEPA applies only to historical properties or exclusively to projects with a major environmental impact.

NEPA exists to guide federal agencies in making environmentally sound decisions. It covers a broad scope, focusing on examining environmental implications from the get-go rather than acting as an enforcement mechanism.

NEPA was the first major environmental policy law in the United States. It was signed by President Nixon in 1969 and continues to ensure that federal decisions are better informed, inviting citizen involvement to ensure that the environmental impact is considered before federal land is developed, managed, or used for a new purpose.

What is the Benefit of Requiring NEPA Assessments?

A NEPA assessment can serve many different purposes. For example, it provides a framework for ensuring that each generation acts as good stewards of the environment. It protects natural resources, ensuring that all Americans access safe, productive, aesthetically-pleasing environmental surroundings. It balances populations and their effects on the environment, and it works to preserve natural, cultural, or historical aspects. The long and short of it is that NEPA assessments ensure that the environment is considered before decisions regarding land use.

Despite the good intentions, NEPA assessments do not inherently prevent negative environmental impacts. While agencies and the public can come together to explore the potential for environmental impact and identify alternatives, there are no requirements preventing actions.

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When is a NEPA Assessment Required?

As a measure of oversight, federal agencies must demonstrate compliance with NEPA assessments before the final decisions are made in a wide range of projects, like:

  • Federal Construction Projects
  • Managing Federally Owned Land
  • Developing Federally Owned Land
  • Approval of Grants, Licenses, & Permits

HANA Resources specializes in collecting and sharing information about the environment, aimed at helping stakeholders in the environmental industry make more sustainable decisions. Learn more today.

Beautiful park with fountain.

The NEPA Assessment Process

There are three levels of assessment depending on the complexity of the project. Every day, government agencies participate in hundreds of activities that require at least the first level of NEPA assessment.

Level 1 – Categorical Exclusion

The assessment process begins by asking two questions. If these questions show no relationship to an environmental impact, then the project is excluded from the detailed NEPA assessment requirement.

  • Does this project affect the quality of the human environment?
  • Are there any conflicts regarding the alternative use of resources?

Level 2 – Environmental Assessment (EA)

For projects that will significantly impact the environment or available resources, the environmental assessment will identify issues to be addressed, provide a framework for public comment, and prepare formal documentation regarding the matter.

The environmental assessment must include:

  • Purpose (Needs Statement)
  • List of Alternatives (Including No Action if applicable)
  • Description of the Affected Environment
  • Explanation of the Potential Consequences
  • Coordination of Reporting Activities

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Level 3 – Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

For major projects that will significantly impact the environment, an environmental impact statement must be prepared to inform decision-makers and the public of the project, its consequences, and potential alternatives.

Preparing an EIS begins by organizing the available data to define the project’s scope. Then, armed with the facts, the agency coordinates with other agencies and interested parties to prepare formal recommendations. The project is advertised through news releases, and a full draft of the EIS is presented to the public for comment. A public meeting is held to discuss the EIS, and the documents are finalized pending the public comments. The final draft is also published to the public and filed as documentation.

An EIS statement includes:

  • Purpose (Needs Statement)
  • List of Alternatives
  • Description of the Affected Environment
  • Explanation of Environmental Impact
  • Identification of All Parties Consulted

NEPA assessments are designed to address the potential environmental impact of developing or using federal lands. These assessments aim to gather and present information so that agencies and the public can make better-informed decisions. All NEPA assessments are documented with a record of decision and shared publicly.

How HANA Resources Uses Technology to Help the Environment

HANA Resources is an environmental consulting firm that bridges the gap between science and policy using technological innovation. Our team relies on the expertise of scientists, engineers, and technology leaders to help our clients make better decisions about their environmental impact.

Our technology includes drones, cameras, and predictive software to model environmental situations. Our tools help industries like energy, transportation, industrial, and government agencies make smarter decisions about how their operations impact the environment. We take pride in providing the data to build a more sustainable future.

What makes us different than other environmental consultants is our approach. We rely on patented, proprietary technologies to collect data. And we stick with science-backed methodologies to ensure high-quality data with reproducible results. Our company is committed to staying on the leading edge of innovation, providing our clients with the latest technologies to provide data for improving corporate sustainability efforts. But most of all, our approach is designed to be tailored to individual client needs. We’re committed to being a flexible solution in an ever-changing world.

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Fain falling on hand.

The Bottom Line on Environmental Assessments

HANA Resources can help collect the data that you need to prepare high-impact environmental assessments that keep you in compliance with NEPA. The National Environmental Policy Act has been around for decades. It’s a broad policy covering nearly every type of activity involving federal land and the human environment. And the burden of compliance falls on government agencies. The scope of these assessments is so broad that most agencies have internal offices dedicated to NEPA compliance.

HANA Resources collaborates with federal agencies to help them gather the data needed for comprehensive, effective NEPA assessments. Learn more today.

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