The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), while our basic national charter for protection of the environment, is foremost a procedural law focused on making sure federal decision makers take a hard look at the potential effects of a proposed action and allow the public and other stakeholders to comment on the federal agency’s effects analysis and consideration of reasonable alternatives. The NEPA analysis helps these decision makers understand the environmental consequences of the alternatives in comparative form before making a decision. This “hard look” is informed by the public and other stakeholders, starting with the scoping phase.
The NEPA process and its value to the public are not always easy to understand. Recognizing this, and to help the public and organizations effectively participate in federal agency environmental reviews, the Council on Environmental Quality wrote the informational A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA. If you are new to the NEPA process, or looking for some clarity about what you have heard so far, this guide is a great starting point.