In January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law. NEPA established a national policy to protect the environment that requires:
An assessment of the environmental, economic, and social costs of any proposed federal action in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
An opportunity for the public to review and comment on an EIS before a decision is made about the proposed action.
In spring, 2018, FSD Board Member, Dr. Beth Polidoro, will teach a unique course on NEPA for undergraduates at Arizona State University. In one of the only courses of its kind across the country, this course provides students with an overview of NEPA and the principles that guide the construction of environmental impact assessments. For example, students will learn about the components of EISs and how to integrate scientific research with project planning and decision making. Students also will learn the importance of public participation in regulatory processes and that making their voices heard can influence the final decision about a proposed action.
NEPA has had a profound impact on how projects can be planned to lessen their environmental impact. Many states now have similar environmental regulatory processes and evaluations of potential environmental impacts are now standard procedure in 100 other countries. Teaching students about how THEY can impact decision making about potentially harmful actions to the environment will begin to spread the word that the public has an important role to play in protecting the environment.