Chapter 14 – NEPA and Information Disclosure: Techniques Copied Around the World


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established a national policy that all government agencies should take the environment into account to the fullest extent possible in their decisionmaking and regulations. NEPA’s most enduring and revolutionary provision is the requirement that government agencies produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) before undertaking major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. Where a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) can be established, the law permits a shorter environmental assessment (EA) to be done instead. Categorical exclusions (CE) provide a generic finding for certain activities that do not typically result in significant impacts and are exempt from requiring an EIS. Laws mandating information disclosure have become core elements of environmental protection. Notably, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)—a 1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) provision—requires companies to disclose emissions of listed toxic chemicals to the public creating an incentive for minimizing emissions.