The Seven Deadly Sins of NEPA
There are seven deadly sins associated with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Any one of these seven misdeeds derail your infrastructure development program in terms of both schedule and budget. Perhaps worse, a transgression can distract your ‘A’ team into months or years of procedural purgatory.
Good decision making and disciplined execution in these seven categories will greatly reduce uncertainty: 1. Purpose and Need; 2. Notification; 3. Proper Project Boundaries; 4. Secondary & Cumulative Impacts; 5. Environmental Justice; 6. Need for Mitigation (EA vs. EIS); and 7. Technical Assumptions/Models.
NEPA is a flexible law that gives federal agencies considerable discretion in its implementation. While there are procedures for overarching NEPA process, each federal agency has specific regulations, procedures, and policies that govern each agency specific NEPA process. This creates both risks and opportunities for practitioners.
Through working with major programs and projects in such sectors as highways, ports, aviation, water & wastewater, military bases, and forestry/agriculture, getting the NEPA process right from the beginning is essential for success. Knowing how to do it is just as important as knowing what to do. And forging a structured, disciplined approach coupled with an effective communication program is an important part of the ‘how to do it’.
The seven deadly sins of NEPA should be included in every infrastructure program’s risk register whenever public environmental documentation is required.