Greenberg, Shapiro – NEPA in the US: Death by Extremism or Redesign of a More Useful tool?

October 3, 2022

A new Book Chapter by Distinguished Professor, Emeritus Michael R. Greenberg and Interim Dean Stuart Shapiro examines the history and future of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Published in Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment, Edited by Alberto Fonseca, September 2022.


In the late 1960s, strong federal government action was needed in the U.S. due to concerns about dire environmental harms and public demand for environmental protection. The National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) preface was a policy statement about the importance of the “productive harmony between environment and man”. The statute created the Council on Environmental Quality which would implement this vision through Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). The EIA process has not stopped development, albeit some of the most environmentally abusive projects were stopped or redirected. The process has also added time and cost to proposed actions, but with profound benefits for the environment. An evaluation of what has worked and has not is needed in order to reshape the existing law and accompanying rules and regulations into an even more useful process. However, such enhancements have been hindered by polarization in U.S. politics.

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