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National Environmental Policy Act

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)  declared a national policy of encouraging productive harmony between man and his environment. The law is further intended to: promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; and to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation. NEPA also established the Council on Environmental Quality. 

President Nixon signed NEPA into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA was the first major environmental law in the United States and is often called the "Magna Carta" of Federal environmental laws. NEPA is our basic national charter for protection of the environment. It establishes policy, sets goals (section 101), and provides means (section 102) for carrying out the policy. Section 102(2) contains "action-forcing" provisions to make sure that federal agencies act according to the letter and spirit of the Act.

NEPA requires Federal Agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. To implement NEPA's policies, Congress prescribed a procedure, commonly referred to as "the NEPA process" or "the environmental impact assessment process." The ultimate goal of the NEPA process is to foster excellent action that protects, restores, and enhances our environment. This is achieved through the utilization of environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs), which provide public officials with relevant information and allow a "hard look" at the potential environmental consequences of each proposed project.  The NEPA process provides public officials with the information they need to make better decisions.

For more information, including CEQ regulations, guidance documents, and other CEQ publications, please visit CEQ NEPA’s website at