National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) is the foundation of modern American environmental protection in the United States and its commonwealths, territories, and possessions. NEPA requires that federal agency decision-makers, in carrying out their duties, use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which people and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other needs of present and future generations of Americans. NEPA provides a mandate and a framework for federal agencies to consider all reasonably foreseeable environmental effects of their proposed actions and to involve and inform the public in the decision-making process. This Act also established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of the President to formulate and recommend national policies that ensure that the programs of the federal government promote improvement of the quality of the environment.
The CEQ set forth regulations (40 CFR Pts. 1500-1508) to assist federal agencies in implementing NEPA during the planning phases of any federal action. These regulations together with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NEPA implementation procedures (NOAA Administrative Order 216-6) help to ensure that environmental impacts of any proposed decisions are fully considered and that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate potential environmental impacts.