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The central purpose of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is not to produce gorgeous or perfect documents; that’s a means to an end. The ultimate purpose is to improve governmental decisionmaking by making relevant information available to officials and by ensuring that everyone affected by the decisions is given a voice. I would like to focus on the effect of NEPA on decisions.

I will discuss three issues.

First, I will talk about the effect that NEPA has had on internal decisionmaking by agencies.

Second, since NEPA attempts to focus decisionmakers on predictions of future environmental conditions with or without proposed actions, and their various alternatives and mitigation measures, it matters whether the predictions in environmental impact statements (EISs) turn out to be accurate; I’ll discuss that.

Third, the time and expense in preparing an EIS are so great that it would be a real waste if this laboriously gathered information could only be used once, and was not disseminated and could not be retrieved by future researchers. Thus, I’ll get into the matter of whether old EISs fade away or have continued life.


Environmental Law | Law


Sabin Center for Climate Change Law