Environmental Planning Strategies, Inc and Pathway Consulting Service, LLC, debunk myths that create unnecessary delays, increased costs, and poor planning in NEPA
Demystifying NEPA to Speed the Review and Permitting of Energy Generation and Transmission and Other Projects and Programs
Lee, J. and R. S. Cunningham. 2013. Environmental Law Institute, Environmental Law Reporter,
Our nation’s infrastructure is deteriorating, damaging our economic growth, security, and environmental quality. Unfortunately, many needed improvements are suffering unnecessary delays from multiple, sequential, and often poorly coordinated federal, state, and tribal reviews, consultations, and approvals. In our experience, controversy, conflict, and delay are often due to a misunderstanding of the intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its contribution to agency planning procedures. Part of its power is its flexibility for integrating the alternative and impact analyses of other environmental laws and executive orders into comprehensive planning. This paper answers questions on common misunderstandings and dynamic, powerful, efficient ways to improve infrastructure planning and permitting using NEPA.
Judith Lee is the author of multiple publications describing her innovative approaches to NEPA and environmental planning.
The Power of Purpose and Need in Quality NEPA Planning
Federal Facilities Environmental Journal, Autumn 1997, pp. 77-92.
NEPA is intended to be a practical contribution to the decision-making process (40 CFR 1502.5) and incorporates sound planning principles into the analysis process. The NEPA implementing regulations require that “agencies shall make sure the proposal which is the subject of an environmental impact statement is properly defined” (40 CFR 1504). The purpose and need, which initiate planning and are part of the proposal, are made up of the underlying need for action (40 CFR 1502.13) and its associated quantified objectives (purposes). The need for action identifies and describes the underlying problem or deficiency (not the proposed action), facts and analyses supporting the problem or deficiency in this location at this time, and the context or perspective of the agency mission. The purpose is made up of the set of one or more quantified, measurable objectives that must be met to a degree that sufficiently fulfills the underlying need for action. This article identifies how the need for action and objectives provides the foundation for planning, shows how to develop strong statements of need for action and quantified objectives, and presents three case studies demonstrating their powerful contribution to planning.
Effective NEPA Implementation: The Facilitated Approach
Federal Facilities Environmental Journal, Autumn 1998, pp. 89-111. Also: Environmental Regulation and Permitting, Spring 1999, pp.53-70
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) allows applicants, states, and contractors to prepare environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs). However, under all circumstances, the federal official is held fully accountable for the scope, objectivity, content, and accuracy of the NEPA analyses and documents prepared for the agency by others. The commonly used paradigm for contracting requires contractors to conduct the analyses and prepare the documents, with federal involvement primarily limited to review and comment of partially completed deliverables. This approach results in contractors fulfilling inherently governmental responsibilities and often causing conflict, frustration, higher costs, longer execution time, and alternatives which may not meet mission objectives. A new contracting paradigm involving a partnership between the agency NEPA Coordinator and a contracted NEPA Facilitator having expertise in NEPA, team coaching, facilitation, and the subject matter effectively creates participation of federal action proponents, agency subject matter experts, and responsible officials in inherently governmental NEPA planning and decision making processes. The approach facilitates the use of expertise and the skills of agency personnel for designing the project, conducting environmental, safety, and health analyses, as well as developing reasonable alternatives and mitigation measures. Many benefits are derived from the new paradigm, including substantially lower costs, shorter time frames, frequent quality checks on the analyses and document, and better "buy-in" into the decision from all participants and responsible officials. The article includes key methods for implementing partnering using the Facilitated NEPA Approach and identifies inherently governmental responsibilities within the NEPA process.
Tools for Powerful Planning Using the ‘Facilitated Planning Approach
Environmental Regulation and Permitting, Autumn 1999, pp. 13-27.
Powerful planning focuses environmental planning using a proven and effective approach, which provides the decision maker with a well-documented, concise, and complete decision package. Powerful planning also has a long-term goal of creating interpersonal and organizational trust, positive long-term relationships, affirmative patterns of communication, and an atmosphere in which organizations work well together. The Facilitated Planning Approach requires four critical components: the interdisciplinary process, an expert planning facilitator, internal organizational participants who provide the subject matter expertise, and documentation prepared concurrently with the planning process. This article describes the specific tools for implementing powerful planning using the Facilitated Planning Approach, from determination of the need for action through analysis of benefits, disadvantages, and impacts of reasonable alternatives. It also outlines the benefits for each step in the process. This process is effective for any collaborative planning process, such as those required for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act/Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (CERCLA/SARA); the Clean Water Act; Endangered Species Act; or even state and local land use planning.
NEPA is a Powerful Collaborative Planning Process
Federal Facilities Environmental Journal, Spring 1997, pp. 85-99.
After 25 years, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is still highly misunderstood and inefficiently implemented. NEPA, however, incorporates the components of a quality public interdisciplinary planning process. The components that make NEPA a powerful planning process - recognition of the role of uncertainty, interpersonal collaboration, nonlinear processes, and decision making with administrative and political risk - tend to make NEPA discomforting, at best, to many managers and practitioners. NEPA is not about more "bullet-proof" documents, more talented writers, more thorough data, more controllable public involvement processes, or even correct decisions NEPA is about more participatory planning, incorporating the "messy" human components of values, politics, change, uncertainty, risk, strategy, emotions, and the diversity of personalities and life experiences that shape ourselves, our coping mechanisms, and our relationships. This article evaluates NEPA from the human standpoint and outlines six general techniques for effectively implementing the systematic interdisciplinary approach to planning required by NEPA.
For more information on additional services provided by Environmental Planning Strategies, Inc related to planning, NEPA, the Facilitated Planning Process and Informed Facilitation, environmental and planning document review, conflict resolution, and NEPA applied to many sectors, please see www.jlee-eps.com