A Citizen's Guide to NEPA: Having Your Voice Heard
This guide has been developed to help citizens and organizations who are concerned about the environmental effects of federal decisionmaking to effectively participate in Federal agencies’ environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). With some limited exceptions, all Federal agencies in the executive branch have to comply with NEPA before they make final decisions about federal actions that could have environmental effects. Thus, NEPA applies to a very wide range of federal actions that include, but are not limited to, federal construction projects, plans to manage and develop federally owned lands, and federal approvals of non-federal activities such as grants, licenses, and permits. The Federal Government takes hundreds of actions every day that are, in some way, covered by NEPA.
The environmental review process under NEPA provides an opportunity for you to be involved in the Federal agency decision-making process. It will help you understand what the Federal agency is proposing, to offer your thoughts on alternative ways for the agency to accomplish what it is proposing, and to offer your comments on the agency’s analysis of the environmental effects of the proposed action and possible mitigation of potential harmful effects of such actions. NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider environmental effects that include, among others, impacts on social, cultural, and economic resources, as well as natural resources. Citizens often have valuable information about places and resources that they value and the potential environmental, social, and economic effects that proposed federal actions may have on those places and resources. NEPA’s requirements provide you the means to work with the agencies so they can take your information into account.