NEPA Terminology

Like most laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has generated a specialized terminology, consisting mostly of acronyms.

  • NEPA review is the process of project and program review under NEPA.
  • NEPA analysis is the analytic process involved in NEPA review.
  • A NEPA document is the report that documents the analysis and its results.
  • CEQ is the Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees NEPA review.
  • CEQ regulations are the NEPA regulations at 40 CFR 1500-1508. CEQ also has published the answers to frequently asked questions about NEPA and its regulations in an oft-cited document usually referred to simply as 40 Questions, and publishes other guidance material, too. CEQ guidance can be found on the NEPANet web page.
  • EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a special role in the review of NEPA documents.
  • CATEX (or CX, CE, Exclusion, various other terms) means "categorical exclusion," a project type that an agency excludes from detailed NEPA review because it has little potential for impact.
  • EA means environmental assessment, an assessment done on a project that is neither an obvious CATEX nor an obvious MFASAQHE (major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment), to determine whether its impacts may be significant enough to require an environmental impact statement.
  • Environmental Justice means seeking to avoid disproportionate adverse environmental impacts on low-income populations and minority communities, in accordance with Executive Order 12898. Such impacts may be cultural in character.
  • FONSI or FNSI or FoNSI means a Finding of No Significant Impact, done where the EA results in the conclusion that the project's impacts will not be significant, and hence no environmental impact statement is required.
  • EIS means an environmental impact statement. The preparation of an EIS includes:
    • Publication of a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS.
    • Scoping – preliminary analysis and consultation to determine the scope of the EIS.
    • Analysis leading to a draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS.
    • Public review and comment, response to comments, occasionally leading to abandonment of or rethinking the project, more often to further analysis and an amended, revised, or supplementary DEIS, or . . .
    • Publication of a final environmental impact statement, or FEIS.
    • Publication of a record of decision, or ROD, which informs the public of the decision, the agency's rationale for it, and any mitigation measures the agency will carry out.
  • SEIS means a supplemental or supplementary EIS, prepared if the project changes, or new impacts are discovered after the original EIS is done, or the agency is ordered to do so by a court.
  • PEIS means a Programmatic EIS, done on an agency program rather than a project; they are rare.
  • LEIS means Legislative EIS, done on a piece of proposed legislation.

Two common NEPA terms need special attention: these are mitigation and significance.