September 13, 20190

To analyze whether a particular activity or project may detrimentally affect the natural resources around it, an Environmental Impact Assessment is necessary. Review of environmental consequences are another way to describe this process. An assessment is completed prior to a decision about whether to proceed with a project or activity.

Environmental Impact Assessments, more often known as Environmental Assessments, do not adhere to a set outcome. Rather, the assessment is meant to provide decision makers with information to aid in a decision-making process. Environmental studies and results, and public comments received, are used to rationalize an environmental decision.

The assessment includes a description of why the activity or project is needed, a listing of alternatives, the environmental impacts associated, and a listing of parties consulted.

A subset of an Environmental Impact Assessment is called an Environmental Impact Statement. It is understood that preparing a sufficient Environmental Impact Assessment is burdensome. This is due to the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act. Under this act, any major federal action that has the potential to cause significant harm to the human environment must be analyzed through an environmental assessment. Each federal agency adopted its own National Environmental Protection Act procedure for Environmental Impact Assessments.

Summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment Process

The purpose of the assessment is to provide brief and sufficient evidence. This is to aid in rendering a decision whether to conduct further environmental analysis. This analysis is called an Environmental Impact Statement. A federal agency must also prove compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act when it determines that no Environmental Impact Statement is required.

The assessment discusses the purpose and need of the activity/project and practicable alternatives. It also includes the project/activity’s environmental impacts, all of the studies conducted, and agencies and stakeholders consulted in the process.

The Environmental Impact Assessment is then drafted and published for public review and comment. This is done through advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the subject area.

Outcome of the Environmental Impact Assessment Process

The ultimate question for the federal agency is whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or conclude with a Finding of No Significant Impact. “If the agency determines that the action will not have significant environmental impacts, the agency will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact…a document that presents the reasons why the agency has concluded that there are no significant environmental impacts projected to occur upon implementation of the action.” National Environmental Policy Act Review Process.

On the other hand, the Environmental Impact Assessment may show harm. If that harm is significant, an Environmental Impact Statement is required.

You may become involved with these assessment processes. A party can provide public comment, or a project applicant may work with the agency. Either way, the attorneys at Desautel Browning Law are proficient in representation throughout this process. To find out how we can help you with an Environmental Impact Assessment, contact us today at 401.477.0023.

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