During the early stages of the planning process for a proposed action, the Department of Energy (DOE) considers National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. NEPA was enacted by Congress in 1969 to ensure that Federal agencies consider the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions and alternatives before deciding on a course of action. The ultimate goal of the NEPA process is to protect, restore and enhance our environment.
“The purposes of this Act are: To declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.” (National Environmental Policy Act)
The mission of the Office of Environmental Management (EM) is to complete the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. This program has made progress towards embracing a mission encompassing a philosophy based on reducing risk and environmental liability. DOE self-regulates its own radioactive waste, but must also comply with NEPA and other federal regulations such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). For every DOE proposal, DOE coordinates its NEPA review with its decision-making in an adequate and timely manner.
EM's NEPA program seeks to promote a more efficient NEPA process and better decision-making. EM’s NEPA Community of Practice, made up of designated DOE NEPA Compliance Officers, takes a lead role in accomplishing these goals by:
- identifying barriers to efficient NEPA implementation through analysis of the NEPA process and feedback from NEPA practitioners,
- exploring potential solutions to overcoming those barriers by examining lessons learned at DOE and across the Federal government, and
- disseminating innovations to those involved in the NEPA process.