The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a U.S. federal law that requires federal agencies to examine the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions and to encourage and facilitate public involvement in decisions which may affect the quality of the human environment. Executive Order 12114, Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions, signed in 1979, is a requirement for federal agencies to consider potential effects an action may have on the physical environment outside of the U.S., its territories, and possessions.
Before a federal agency may proceed with a major action (a “proposed action”), it first must consider the potential effects the proposal may have on the human, natural, or cultural environment. A federal agency can meet NEPA requirements by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This particular EIS is also considered an Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) because the movement of the ex-Enterprise or packages could be beyond the 12-nautical-mile limit from U.S. shores.
Public input and involvement are fundamental aspects of the EIS/OEIS process. The NEPA process requires public involvement during the "scoping" period and when the Draft EIS/OEIS is available for public review and comment. The public participates in the NEPA process during the following key stages:
- Scoping Period: The public can help the federal agency to identify the scope of the EIS/OEIS, viable alternatives, and specific environmental topics for consideration in the analysis.
- Draft EIS/OEIS Public Review and Comment Period: The public can review, evaluate, and comment on the draft environmental impact analysis.
- Final EIS/OEIS 30-Day Wait Period: The public can review how the federal agency responded to public comments on the Draft EIS/OEIS.
NEPA Process and Next Steps
- The Navy announced its Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS/OEIS on May 31, 2019.
- The Scoping Period was held from May 31, 2019, through July 15, 2019. The scoping period is an early and open public process for identifying, defining, and prioritizing issues to be evaluated in the EIS/OEIS. During this phase, the public was encouraged to provide comments on the scope of the EIS/OEIS, viable alternatives, and specific environmental topics for consideration in the analysis.
- The Navy is considering all public comments received during the scoping period and developing the Draft EIS/OEIS.
- Once completed, the Draft EIS/OEIS will be filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and made available to the public for a 45-day Public Review and Comment Period. A Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS/OEIS will be published in the Federal Register.
- After the close of the public review and comment period, the Navy will consider all comments received during this period and develop the Final EIS/OEIS. All public comments received on the Draft EIS/OEIS will be considered and responded to in the Final EIS/OEIS.
- Once completed, the Final EIS/OEIS will be filed with the EPA and made available to the public for a 30-day Wait Period. A Notice of Availability of the Final EIS/OEIS will be published in the Federal Register.
- After the wait period, the Navy will select an alternative and issue a Record of Decision. The Record of Decision will describe the public involvement and decision-making processes, present the Navy’s decision, and commit the Navy to specific mitigation measures. The Record of Decision will be published in the Federal Register and made available to the public.