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October 19, 2012
EPA now accepting electronic EISs

The slowly moving vessel of federal bureaucracy has at last put in place an electronic system for submittal of environment impact statements (EISs) required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Called e-NEPA, the system is open only to federal agencies that are required to submit EISs to the EPA, announced the Agency.  The new approach, which took effect October 1, 2012, does not change requirements for distribution of EISs to other federal agencies for review or to EPA regional offices or the general public.  EPA regional offices generally prefer at least one paper copy of an EIS.  Also, e-NEPA is open only to government employees; contactors cannot submit EIS documents through the system.

NEPA requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.  To meet NEPA requirements federal agencies prepare detailed EISs. The EPA reviews and comments on EISs and maintains a national filing system for all EISs.

According to the EPA, the release of e-NEPA is an “important step” in advancing President Obama’s commitment to streamline the federal environment review process.  “Through electronic filing, we are making it easier for federal agencies to submit EISs, allowing them to save time and reduce costs, while making the process more transparent for the public,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Federal Register

The EPA also announced that it will prepare a weekly report of all EISs filed during the preceding week for publication each Friday under a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register (FR).  At the same time the EPA sends its weekly report for publication in the FR, the report will also be sent to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office responsible for implementing NEPA and its regulations. 

The CEQ regulations establish time periods for review of draft and final EISs.  Review periods for draft EISs, draft supplements, and revised draft EISs are 45 calendar days.  The review periods for final EISs and final supplements are 30 calendar days.  Both those periods can be extended or reduced by the lead agency. 

Click here for information on e-NEPA.

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