National Environmental Policy Act
Given the current state of the environment, it is perhaps surprising to learn that several major pieces of environmental legislation in the United States were passed during the Nixon Administration. One of those landmark laws is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which went into effect on January 1, 1970. Many refer to the National Environmental Policy Act as the “environmental Magna Carta,” as the law established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
The effort to pass the National Environmental Policy Act grew out of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, the third largest oil spill in American history, spilling upwards of 100,000 barrels of oil onto the beaches of Southern California. The National Environmental Policy Act legislation outlines the following:
- The nation’s environmental policies and goals
- Establishes provisions for federal agencies to enforce those policies
- Established the CEQ
In practice, the National Environmental Policy Act requires any financed project to meet NEPA guidelines whenever a federal agency provides a portion of the funding. Federal agencies must have an environmental impact statement accompanying requests for funding from Congress. An environmental impact statement is used to assess the potential consequences to the environment, both positive and negative, in order to proceed with the implementing of the particular project.