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Understanding the NEPA Process
July 18, 2013


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process requires NASA decision-makers to make informed decisions about the environmental consequences of any proposed actions. The process does not require NASA to select an alternative action that is the best for the environment nor does it prohibit actions with adverse environmental effect. NASA must balance environmental concerns with social, economic, and technical impacts as well as national policy goals or security interests. NASA's NEPA Program as part of a larger NASA Environmental Management System (EMS) strives to make sure that NASA does what is best for the environment to the maximum practical extent.

The implementation of NASA's NEPA process is primarily overseen by three Federal agencies:

  1. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – CEQ has the responsibility to ensure that all Federal agencies in the Executive Branch meet the requirements of NEPA. CEQ also oversees the implementation and interpretation of the NEPA Process through the publication of procedural requirements, which in turn are developed into agency-specific requirements by Federal agencies like NASA.

    Click here to explore the NEPA requirements that CEQ has levied on NASA and the procedural documents and requirements that NASA has developed.

  2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – EPA has the responsibility to review Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) documents and Environmental Assessment (EA) documents released by NASA. Reviews of these documents completed by the EPA are published in the Federal Register to notify the public of Federal agency actions.

  3. U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution – An addition to NEPA in 1998, this organization's responsibility is to assist in resolving conflicts about environmental issues between Federal agencies and state, local, or Tribal governments, private organizations, businesses, and the public.

NASA's NEPA Process consists of an evaluation of the environmental effects of an action including its alternatives for a proposal. There are three levels of analysis depending on whether or not the proposed action could significantly affect the environment. These three levels include: Categorical Exclusion (CatEx) determination, preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA)/Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Click here to see additional details about NASA's NEPA Process, the steps that determine what analyses are required, and the responsibilities that NASA has before and after the analysis documents have been completed.

Click here to take an in-depth look at the documents required for each of the different levels of NEPA analysis, browse listings of current NASA documents, and find links to generate real-time lists of documents from NASA's NEPA Public Library.

Click here to review Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)about the NEPA process and follow links to the FAQ lists of related Federal agencies.

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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator