Preparing NEPA Environmental Assessments: A User’s Guide to Best Professional Practices, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Preparing NEPA Environmental Assessments

A User’s Guide to Best Professional Practices, 1st Edition

By Charles Eccleston, J. Peyton Doub

CRC Press

316 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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Although upwards of 50,000 environmental assessments (EAs) are prepared annually—compared to some 500 environmental impact statements (EISs)—the focus of U.S. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations is on defining requirements for preparing EISs.Written by Charles Eccleston and J. Peyton Doub, who have established themselves among the top environmental experts in the world, Preparing NEPA Environmental Assessments: A User’s Guide to Best Professional Practices fills the need for an authoritative and comprehensive guide on how to prepare EAs.

Bridging the regulatory gap, this book identifies relevant EIS regulatory requirements that can be logically interpreted to also apply to EAs. It compiles and synthesizes information scattered throughout NEPA’s regulations, executive orders, and guidance documents, and incorporates case law to provide additional clarification. The authors also draw on the professional experiences and best professional practices (BPP) of NEPA practitioners.

From the fundamentals to more advanced topics, the book presents a consistent methodology to help beginners, students, and professionals manage, analyze, and write legally sufficient EAs. It addresses dilemmas that have traditionally plagued preparation of EAs, provides BPPs, tools, and approaches for resolving problems, and introduces methods for streamlining the EA process.

Building on Eccleston’s previous guide to EAs, Effective Environmental Assessments: How to Manage and Prepare NEPA Assessments (2001), this book reflects the rapid changes in government policy over the past ten years. An indispensable source of practical information, it provides readers with step-by-step direction and best practices for preparing defensible EAs.


Praise for the previous book, Effective Environmental Assessments: How to Manage and Write NEPA Assessments (CRC Press, 2001):

"Mr. Eccleston has written a most thorough guide to managing and preparing EAs that puts NEPA back into its original perspective—a planning and decision-making tool … comprehensively covers the EA process … provides practical guidance for effectively preparing an analysis …"

—Mr. Russell W. Peterson, Former Governor of Delaware and Former Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)

"NEPA is the cornerstone of our environmental statutory structure and provides a strategic look for long-range planning. By explaining the environmental assessment process in a scholarly, yet easily understandable way, Charles Eccleston has performed an enormous service for all who care about the protection of our country's—and indeed the world's—environment."

—Michael R. Deland, Former Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality

"Charles Eccleston has performed a real service in authoring Effective Environmental Assessments: How to Manage and Write NEPA Assessments. The book fills a void and concentrates on environmental assessments, a critical but underemphasized part of the NEPA process. It is, furthermore, both useful and user-friendly."

—Nicholas C. Yost, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, former General Counsel of the CEQ charged with responsibility for writing the 1978 CEQ NEPA Regulations

Table of Contents

Section 1: The NEPA Environmental Assessment Process

Overview and Historical Development of NEPA


Origin of Environmental Movement

The Historical Development of NEPA

Brief Overview of NEPA

The NEPA Regulations

Overview of the NEPA Planning Process


General Concepts and Requirements


NEPA is a Planning and Decision-Making Process

Interim Actions

Integrating NEPA with Other Requirements

Conducting an Early and Open Process


Systematic and Interdisciplinary Planning

Writing Documents in Plain English

Incorporation by Reference

Adopting Another Agency’s EA


A Fair and Objective Analysis

Dealing with Incomplete and Unavailable Information


NEPA and Environmental Impact Analysis



Environmental Disturbances

Receptors and Resources

Impact Analysis


Mitigation and Monitoring


The Threshold Question: Determining Whether an EA or an EIS is Required









Human Environment

Categorical Exclusions

Long Versus Short Environmental Assessments


The Environmental Assessment Process


Planning the Environmental Assessment

The Analysis in an EA

Streamlining the EA Compliance Process

Issuing a Finding of No Significant Impact

The Administrative Record

Serving as an Expert Witness


The Environmental Impact Assessment


Sliding-Scale Approach

Identifying Alternatives


Human Health Effects

Accident Analyses

Considering Other Environmental Requirements

Environmental Justice


Writing the Environmental Assessment


General Direction for Preparing an EA

Typical Contents of an Environmental Assessment

Performing the Analysis

Specific Documentation Requirements and Guidance


Assessing Significance


Definitions and Use of the Term "Significance"

General Procedure for Determining Significance

Significant Beneficial Impacts


The Finding of No Significant Impacts


Reaching a Determination of Nonsignificance

Preparing the FONSI

Mitigated FONSIs


Section 2: NEPA Case Law and Non-NEPA Environmental Assessment Documents

An Overview of NEPA Law and Litigation

Principles Underlying Legal Interpretations of NEPA

Process for Passing Laws and Regulations

Interpreting NEPA’s Regulatory Requirements

A Substantive Versus Procedural Process

Requirements for Bringing a Successful Environmental Lawsuit

The Litigation Process

Legal Standards Applied in Reviewing NEPA

Judicial Remedies in NEPA Suits

Recent Case Law Involving NEPA

EA Case Law and EAs

Study of Alternatives Analysis in NEPA Documents

Other Cases Reflecting on the Preparation of EAs


Specialized Non-NEPA Environmental Assessment Documents


The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

The Cell Tower NEPA Review

The Biological Assessment

Environmental Assessments and State NEPA Programs





About the Authors

Charles H. Eccleston is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in America as a nationally recognized NEPA authority. He is a consultant, author, and lecturer with some 30 years experience in NEPA, environmental policy, and analyzing the impacts of projects and energy-related policies. He also frequently consults on NEPA lawsuits. He is the author of nine books and 80 professional publications. Some of his recent books include:

J. Peyton Doub, CEP, PWS, is an Environmental Scientist and expert in preparing EAs. He has more than 20 years experience preparing EAs and EISs, wetlands and natural resources investigations, and other environmental reports. He is the author of The Endangered Species Act: History, Implementation, Successes, and Controversies (CRC Press, 2012).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Environmental
SCIENCE / Environmental Science
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / General