Environmental impact statement

What is an environmental impact statement?

An environmental impact statement is a legally required evaluation of the potential impact on the environment of a major federal project or of proposed legislation that could cause an environmental impact.

Deeper definition

Falling under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an environmental impact statement (EIS) is required whenever a federal agency proposes a project or action that could impact the environment.

The first step is to establish if the proposed action is likely to have a significant effect on the human environment. If this is the case, an environmental assessment (EA) is conducted to verify that there will be an environmental impact.

If the EA establishes the environmental impact will be significant, a full environmental impact statement must be prepared. An EIS is a complex process that proceeds through several clearly defined phases:

  • Identify the proposed project.
  • Explain why the project is being considered.
  • Discuss alternatives.
  • Detail the environmental consequences.

Key milestones of an environmental impact statement process include the following:

  • The issuance of a notice of intent to conduct an EIS.
  • Preparation of a draft EIS for public comment.
  • A waiting period of 45 days to allow for comments from interested parties.
  • Finalization and publication of the final EIS.
  • Following a mandatory minimum waiting period of 30 days, the appropriate federal agency announces a Record of Decision (ROD) along with alternatives considered and steps to be taken to mitigate adverse environmental impacts.

Although the law does not require that companies involved in private sector projects conduct an environmental impact statement, all such developments must comply with local, state and federal regulations.

Environmental impact statement example

An example is a proposal for the construction of a 500 kilovolt electrical transmission line over a distance of 305 miles, between southwest Idaho and northeast Oregon. The environmental impact statement outlines the reasons for the project, identifies the impact of this project on the environment and discusses alternatives. The final step is for the Bureau of Land Management to issue a Record of Decision regarding this project.

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