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  • Writer's pictureJD Solomon

The Big 7 Reasons that Environmental Impact Statements Fail

Pre-populate your project risk register with these big seven pitfalls. JD Solomon Inc provides solutions for project development and the environment.
Pre-populate your project risk register with these big seven pitfalls.

Starting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requires diving into a maze of regulations and assessments. An EIS is simply a detailed report evaluating the environmental consequences of a proposed project, but it demands careful attention to avoid missteps. Use these seven reasons that an EIS fails to populate your project risk register. Remember, the golden trio of clear communication, unbiased analysis, and sound documentation will make or break your EIS journey.


Why Is An EIS Required to Comply with the National Environment Protect Act (NEPA)?

In answering this question, there's a lot of boring blah, blah. The bottom line is that the process allows the public to provide input, express concerns, and participate in decision making. Trouble comes when things are not as transparent or objective as they should be.


#1 Purpose and Need

The "purpose and need" statement in an EIS outlines why a proposed action is being considered and the specific objectives it aims to address. It serves as a foundation for evaluating alternatives and assessing the environmental impacts. The shortfall is usually with adequatekly documenting the need (i.e., infrastructure deficiencies, resource shortages, public safety concerns, or economic development goals).

Tip: Make sure your projections (forecasts) are realistic.


#2 Inadequate Stakeholder Engagement

Insufficient consultation with affected communities or other stakeholders can lead to overlooking important concerns or failing to incorporate local knowledge into the decision-making process. Remember, this is a primary driver of the EIS process.

Tip: Do too much, not too little.


#3 Biased Analysis

The analysis within the EIS may be influenced by conflicts of interest or political pressures, leading to a biased portrayal of environmental impacts and negative consequences. Political pressures often lead organizations to gravitate toward more cost-effective or easier-to-implement alternatives.

Tip: Avoid buying property or signing contracts that bias one alternative over others.


#4 Poor Alternatives Assessment

Failure to adequately evaluate alternative project designs or locations can result in missed opportunities to minimize environmental harm. This is a close cousin to #3 Biased Analysis. This difference is that this shortfall is more the result of narrow thinking or sloppy analysis and less about biased preferences driving the direction of the analysis.

Tip: Use value-based thinking to generate a wide range of alternatives. Remember to anchor the extremes with "status quo" and "do everything."


 #5 Inadequate Scope

The scope of the EIS should cover all relevant environmental aspects, such as impacts on biodiversity, air quality, water resources, or human health. The shortfall here is usually not including all the relevant players. Scoping meetings held at the beginning of the process help mitigate this.

Tip: Have a well-developed Purpose and Need Statement developed before you get to the initial scoping meeting. 


#6 Poor Data Quality

Insufficient or inaccurate data used in the assessment (including modeling) can undermine the credibility of the EIS. Biased data collection is usually the primary source of the trouble here. Less effort is often placed on assessing alternatives that don't seem as viable as others.

Tip: Use multiple team members to collect data from multiple sources.


#7 Weak Mitigation Measures

An EIS identifies environmental impacts that must be mitigated. Those measures must adequately address public concerns and comply with environmental regulations. Normally, this will not break the EIS but instead can significantly slow it down in the final stages.

Tip: Do a little more that required on the larger impacts.


Avoid the Big 7 Environmental Impact Statement Pitfalls

An EIS requires paying attention to details. Pre-populate your project risk register with these big seven pitfalls. This article’s tips provide an initial mitigation strategy. Over the course of your journey, lean on clear communication, unbiased analysis, and sound documentation as keys to a successful EIS.


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