The United States National Environmental Policy Act: History, process, and politics

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Book Chapter

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Prior to 1970, there was no requirement for the US federal government to account for the environmental impacts of their decisions and projects. If negative environmental impacts existed, there was also no requirement for the federal government to inform the public or seek their input and comments on the federal project. All this hanged on January 1, 1970, when Republican President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

This chapter reviews the purpose of NEPA and provides and overview of the basic environmental assessment process in the United States. In order to provide a context for NEPA's judicial enforcement as well as legislative and executive branch attempts at NEPA reform during US President Trump's administration (2016-2020). Finally, this chapter discusses NEPA's future under an administration led by President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.