NEPA Adaptation and Controversy

Now Available from APA Learn

This course is now offered on the APA Learn educational platform.

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Certification Maintenance

CM | 1.25

You'll learn about:

  • Changes that have been made to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) over the past 46 years

  • The effect of litigation and NEPA

  • How mediation can improve the process

In 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established the mandate for federal agencies to produce environmental disclosure documents. Over time, the Council on Environmental Quality has substantially changed environmental reporting requirements. While not all the changes had the desired outcomes, there are some that make the environmental impact statement (EIS) of 2016 a better document than that of 1970.  

Many agencies agree that the requirements of NEPA have resulted in better decisions, and many outside the bureaucracy think that NEPA is a major force in reforming agency decision-making processes. However, the “elephant in the room” for NEPA is litigation. Anti-NEPA criticism argues that complying with NEPA takes too long, is too expensive, and is redundant with other legislation. Lawsuits are resource-intensive—using scarce funds and time on both sides—and cause agencies to act in risk-averse ways to avoid lawsuits. As one Stanford University Law School professor puts it, it results in “over-papering” of the EIS. Further, use of the courts is not a direct way of obtaining the goals of the plaintiff, as advocates do not typically want a different analysis but, rather, a different project outcome.

Examine the 46-year history of NEPA, assess its structure changes, and learn how mediation can improve the process during this session.