DOE NEPA Program History

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Overview

DOE began operations on October 1, 1977. The functions of DOE’s predecessor organizations (the Energy Research and Development Administration, Federal Energy Administration, and Federal Power Commission) and some energy-related functions of other federal agencies were transferred to DOE under the Department of Energy Organization Act.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508) became binding on federal agencies on July 30, 1979. The regulations stated (§1505.1) that agencies “shall adopt … implementing procedures under section 102(2) [of NEPA] to achieve the requirements of sections 101 and 102(1).” In 1979, DOE established 10 CFR Part 1021 through a rulemaking that adopted the CEQ NEPA regulations. From 1979 to 1992, DOE promulgated its NEPA implementing procedures as “guidelines,” which also listed classes of actions that normally do not have potential to cause significant environmental impacts (categorical exclusions or “CXs”) and those that normally require preparation of an EA or EIS. In 1992, DOE revoked the DOE NEPA guidelines and replaced them with revised and expanded DOE NEPA regulations at 10 CFR Part 1021. 

Beginning in 1978, an order, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program, established DOE’s internal assignment of responsibilities for complying with NEPA and associated implementing regulations and guidelines. Each revision of the DOE NEPA order cancelled the previous version. In December 2017, DOE Policy 451.1 cancelled the DOE NEPA order.

Listed below, in chronological order, are links to documents showing the development of DOE's NEPA regulations, internal procedures, and policies. "Archived" indicates that the document is not currently applicable.

Listing of DOE NEPA Requirements and Policy

1978-02-21 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1021. Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

43 FR 7232. Proposed to establish 10 CFR Part 1021 as DOE NEPA procedures, including CXs and classes of actions that normally require preparation of an EA or EIS, “based primarily on policies and procedures which governed compliance with NEPA in [DOE predecessor agencies].” 

1978-07-19 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1022. Compliance with Floodplain/Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (archived)

43 FR 31108. Proposed to establish 10 CFR Part 1022 as DOE floodplain and wetland environmental review requirements to implement Executive Orders 11988 and 11990. DOE floodplain/wetlands regulations are included in this NEPA program history because they are “designed to be coordinated with the environmental review requirements established pursuant to [NEPA].” (Notice of final rule, Summary; 44 FR 12594; March 7, 1979)

1978-08-11 Order: DOE O 5440.1, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Assigned DOE internal procedures and responsibilities for NEPA compliance. 

1979-03-07 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1022. Compliance with Floodplain/Wetlands Environmental Review Requirements (archived)

44 FR 12594. Established 10 CFR Part 1022 as DOE floodplain and wetland environmental review requirements to implement Executive Orders 11988 and 11990. 

1979-07-18 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

44 FR 42136. Proposed DOE NEPA implementing procedures as required by the CEQ regulations (40 CFR 1507.3), including CXs and classes of actions that normally require preparation of an EA or EIS. DOE adopted the guidelines “on an interim basis pending publication in final form.”

1979-08-06 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1021. Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

44 FR 45918. Established 10 CFR Part 1021, adopted the CEQ regulations, and revoked the NEPA regulations of predecessor agencies (10 CFR Parts 208 and 711).

1980-03-28 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

45 FR 20694. Adopted final guidelines as DOE NEPA implementing procedures. DOE also requested public comment on paragraph B.3(c)(2), which was added and published as interim procedures to provide for NEPA compliance for major system acquisition projects involving the competitive procurement of a site and/or processes.

1980-08-11 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

45 FR 53199. Proposed to add 5 CXs for actions under Title II and Title III of the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978.

1980-10-20 Order: DOE O 5440.1A, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Updated the assignment of DOE internal procedures and responsibilities for NEPA compliance.

1980-11-26 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

45 FR 78756. Adopted procedures for major system acquisition projects involving the competitive procurement of a site and/or processes. 

1980-12-17 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

45 FR 82987. Proposed a CX for certain grants of entitlements for petroleum substitutes.

1981-07-16 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

46 FR 36884. Proposed 11 new classes of actions and modification of 3 existing classes of actions. 

1982-02-23 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

47 FR 7976. Added 5 CXs proposed on 1980-08-11. Added 11 new classes of actions and modified 3 existing classes of actions as proposed on 1981-07-16. Withdrew the CX proposed on 1980-12-17 regarding entitlements of petroleum substitutes. Republished Section D of the DOE NEPA guidelines in its entirety.

1982-05-14 Order: DOE O 5440.1B, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Modified the assignment of DOE internal responsibilities for NEPA compliance including delegating to Assistant Secretaries the responsibility for determining the level of NEPA review for proposals that fit classes of actions listed in Section D of the guidelines and determining “that a proposed action, although not categorically excluded, clearly will not have significant environmental effects and, therefore, does not warrant preparation of an EA or EIS.” (See “memorandum-to-file” in policy SEN-15-90 of 1990-02-02.)

1982-11-22 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

47 FR 52499. Proposed 8 CXs applicable primarily to power marketing activities.

1983-01-06 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

48 FR 685. Added 8 CXs applicable primarily to power marketing activities and made a conforming modification to an EA class of actions.

1985-02-25 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

50 FR 7629. Proposed adding 7 new CXs and 1 new EA class of actions, modifying 4 existing classes of actions, and deleting 1 EA class of actions.

1985-04-09 Order: DOE O 5440.1C, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Modified the assignment of DOE internal responsibilities for NEPA compliance by removing one already accomplished (establishment of DOE NEPA policies and directives) and to reflect changes in DOE organization, including establishment of the Office of Environmental Compliance as a technical assistance office.

1986-05-22 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

51 FR 18867. Proposed adding a CX for the permanent cogeneration exemption authorized under Title II of the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978.

1987-01-07 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

52 FR 659. Added the CX regarding cogeneration proposed on 1986-05-22.

1987-12-15 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

52 FR 47662. Added 7 CXs and modified 2 CXs, and added, modified, and deleted classes of actions that normally require an EA or EIS, as proposed on 1985-02-25. Republished the DOE NEPA guidelines in their entirety. (Guidelines Sections A, B, and C were updated from the 1980 03 28 version to reflect changes to DOE office names and the list of other environmental laws that are coordinated with the NEPA process.)

1988-08-09 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

53 FR 29934. Proposed adding a CX for import/export authorization for natural gas under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act and changing a class of actions from normally requiring an EIS to normally requiring an EA.

1989-03-27 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

54 FR 12474. Added a CX and changed a class of actions from normally requiring an EIS to normally requiring an EA, as proposed on 1988-08-09.

1990-02-02 Policy: Secretary of Energy Notice SEN 15 90, National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

This Secretary of Energy Notice directed revisions to DOE NEPA compliance procedures “to correct the deficiencies and accomplish the objectives discussed in” a “10 point initiative to ensure that all Departmental activities are carried out in full compliance with the letter and spirit of environmental statutes and regulations.”

The notice directed changes in DOE NEPA procedures and authorities to be incorporated in a revision of the DOE NEPA Order. The notice ended use of a “memorandum to file” (under DOE O 5440.1B, a determination “that a proposed action, although not categorically excluded in [the DOE NEPA guidelines], clearly will not have significant environmental effects and therefore does not warrant preparation of an [EA or EIS]”). Other changes provided for the Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health to review determinations for proposals listed in Section D of the guidelines, make EA and EIS determinations for proposals not listed in Section D, and approve EAs and EISs; require each headquarters office with NEPA responsibilities and each operations office to designate a NEPA Compliance Officer; require a mitigation action plan for implementing any commitments made in an EIS/Record of Decision or an EA/Finding of No Significant Impact for which the FONSI is based, in significant part, on the mitigation commitment.

The notice directed revising the DOE NEPA guidelines and reissuing the guidelines as regulations. Changes to be incorporated in the rule revision included: revising and expanding CXs that minimize “the necessity for subjective judgment”; eliminating a “catch all” CX (“Actions that are substantially the same as other actions for which the environmental impacts have already been assessed in a NEPA document and determined by DOE to be clearly insignificant and where such assessment is still valid”); requiring a public scoping meeting for every EIS and a public hearing on every draft EIS; developing and updating site wide EISs; notifying host states and, as appropriate, adjacent states of determinations to prepare a NEPA document and providing a review opportunity before DOE approval of an EA (broadened during the rulemaking to include tribes); making a supplement analysis available to the public; requiring a mitigation plan for certain EISs and EAs.

SEN 15 90 was cancelled via DOE N 251.18 (1996 11 04), following incorporation of provisions into the DOE NEPA regulations (57 FR 15122; 1992-04-24) and order (DOE O 5440.1D; 1991-02-22). 

1990-04-06 Guidelines (proposed): Compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

55 FR 13064. Proposed new CXs concerning (1) removal actions under CERCLA, (2) improvements to environmental control systems, and (3) site characterization and environmental monitoring under CERCLA and RCRA.

1990-09-07 Guidelines (final): Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

55 FR 37174. Amended the DOE NEPA Guidelines to add the 3 new CXs proposed on 1990-04-06.

1990-11-02 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures (archived)

55 FR 46444. Proposed revision of 10 CFR Part 1021 and revocation of the DOE NEPA guidelines. Proposed revisions included a revised and expanded list of CXs “formulated to minimize the need for subjective judgment” and other changes listed in SEN-15-90 (1990-02-02).

1990-11-15 Guidelines (proposed revocation): National Environmental Policy Act Guidelines, Revocation (archived)

55 FR 47792. Proposed the revocation of the DOE NEPA Guidelines upon the effective date of the 10 CFR Part 1021 revisions proposed on 1990-11-02.

1991-02-22 Order: DOE O 5440.1D, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Implemented directives in SEN 15-90. (The order’s approval documentation anticipated further changes on completion of revision to the DOE NEPA regulations.)

1992-04-24 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures and Guidelines Revocation (archived)

57 FR 15122. Revised the existing DOE NEPA regulations to incorporate provisions of the DOE NEPA guidelines, adopting revisions proposed on 1990-11-02. Revoked the guidelines.

1992-11-10 Order: DOE O 5440.1E, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Incorporated changes to conform to final regulations of 1992-04-24.

1994-06-13 Policy: Secretarial Policy Statement on the National Environmental Policy Act (archived)

The policy statement directed changes in DOE NEPA procedures “to streamline the NEPA process, minimize the cost and time for document preparation and review, emphasize teamwork, and make the process more useful to decision makers and the public.” 

Among other changes, the policy directed the delegation of full authorities for EAs to Heads of Field Organizations; instituted an annual NEPA planning summary; initiated NEPA guidance on contract statements of work, public participation, and recommendations for the preparation of EAs and EISs; established a requirement to designate a DOE NEPA Document Manager for each project requiring NEPA review; provided for reliance on the CERCLA process to address NEPA values and public participation for certain actions; initiated a NEPA contracting quality improvement team and stated provisions for contract reform, such as a requirement to evaluate contractor performance; and established a NEPA metrics program and quarterly summary on lessons learned. 

The policy statement was implemented through delegations of EA authorities, issuance of guidance documents, revision of the DOE NEPA Order (DOE O 451.1; 1995-09-11), and initiation of DOE NEPA Lessons Learned Quarterly Report in December 1994. The policy was retired after its provisions were incorporated into the DOE NEPA Order and regulations.

1995-09-11 Order: DOE O 451.1, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Implemented elements of the Secretary's June 1994 NEPA Policy Statement.

1996-02-20 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures (archived)

61 FR 6414. Citing the Secretary's June 1994 NEPA Policy Statement, this rulemaking was “intended to maintain quality while improving the efficiency of DOE’s implementation of NEPA by clarifying and streamlining certain DOE requirements, thereby reducing implementation costs and time.” Proposed changes pertaining to the EIS implementation plan requirement, required content for FONSIs, and ROD public notification requirements. Proposed to add, remove, modify, and clarify classes of actions listed in Subpart D.

1996-07-09 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures (archived)

61 FR 36222. Adopted revisions proposed on 1996-02-20 except for proposed amendments to classes of actions primarily relating to power marketing activities, whose consideration was deferred. 

1996-07-09 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures; Limited Reopening of the Comment Period (archived)

61 FR 35990. Reopened the comment period for classes of actions primarily relating to power marketing activities. 

1996-12-06 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedure; Final Rule (archived)

61 FR 64603. Modified classes of actions primarily relating to power marketing activities. 

1997-06-05 Order: DOE O 451.1A, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Incorporated changes to conform to final rulemaking of 1996 07 09 by removing references to EIS implementation plans.

2000-10-26 Order: DOE O 451.1B, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Added National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) functions.

2001-09-28 Order: DOE O 451.1B Change 1, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Provided for the NNSA Administrator to “approve or adopt EISs and EIS-related documents for NNSA proposals that the Administrator determined, after consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health, do not warrant Secretarial attention.”

2002-11-18 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Parts 1021 and 1022. Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (archived)

67 FR 69480. Proposed to amend 10 CFR Part 1022 “to add flexibility and remove unnecessary procedural burdens” by simplifying public notification procedures, exempting certain actions, providing for immediate action in an emergency, expanding the list of sources for determining the location of floodplains and wetlands, and allowing floodplain and wetland assessments for actions proposed to be taken under CERCLA to be coordinated with the CERCLA process rather than the NEPA process. Proposed a conforming change to 10 CFR 1021.313(c) to allow for issuance of a floodplain statement of findings in a final EIS or separately.

2003-08-27 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Parts 1021 and 1022. Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (current)

68 FR 51429. Adopted changes that simplify public notification, exempt certain actions, provide for immediate action in an emergency, expand the existing list of sources for determining the location of floodplains and wetlands, and allowing floodplain and wetland assessments for actions proposed to be taken under CERCLA to be coordinated with the CERCLA environmental review process rather than the NEPA process. Adopted a conforming change to 10 CFR 1021.313(c) to allow for issuance of a floodplain statement of findings in a final EIS or separately.

2006-10-06 Notice: DOE N 451.1, Change to DOE Order 451.1B (archived)

Transferred responsibilities in DOE O 451.1B (2001-09-28), from the Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health (EH) to the Office of General Counsel. An attachment to the notice is the Secretary of Energy memo (August 30, 2006) disestablishing the Office of Environment, Safety and Health and transferring the Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance to the General Counsel. 

2006-11-28 Regulations (final): Technical Amendments: Transfer of Office Functions and Removal of Obsolete Regulations (archived)

71 FR 68727. (Modified multiple parts of 10 CFR.) A technical amendment to 10 CFR Part 1021 transferred to the General Counsel, or his/her designee, responsibility “for overall review of DOE NEPA compliance.” 

2009-10-02 Policy: NEPA Process Transparency and Openness (archived)

This Deputy Secretary of Energy Memorandum for Heads of Departmental Elements established a policy that DOE will document and post online all categorical exclusion determinations involving classes of actions listed in Appendix B of the Department's NEPA implementing procedures, 10 CFR Part 1021. The policy was retired after its provisions were incorporated into the DOE NEPA Order (2010-06-25) and 10 CFR 1021.410(e) (2011-10-13).

2010-06-25 Order: DOE O 451.1B Change 2, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Incorporated provisions of the Deputy Secretary memorandum “NEPA Process Transparency and Openness” (2009-10 02) and the reassignment of EH responsibilities to the Office of General Counsel (2006-10-06).

2010-07-16 Policy: Public Involvement in the Environmental Assessment Process (archived)

This Deputy Secretary of Energy Memorandum for Heads of Departmental Elements, to foster transparency and participation in DOE’s NEPA process, established a policy of making draft EAs available for public review, whenever possible, concurrent with host state/tribal review. The policy stated that “when an Office makes a draft EA available for public review, in addition to its usual manner of [making it available], the Office shall make sure that the draft EA is posted on the Department's NEPA website … before the start of the public review period.” The policy was retired after its provisions were incorporated into DOE O 451.1B, Change 3 (2012-01-19).

2011-01-03 Regulations (proposed): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures (archived)

76 FR 214. Proposed to modify and clarify existing procedures and classes of actions and to add 20 new CXs and remove 2 CXs, 1 EA class of actions, and 2 EIS classes of actions. 

2011-10-13 Regulations (final): 10 CFR Part 1021. National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures; Final Rule (current)

76 FR 63764. Amended the DOE NEPA regulations by modifying and clarifying existing provisions and by adding 20 new CXs and removing 2 CXs, 1 EA category, and 3 EIS categories. A separate web page documents the history of the 2011 DOE NEPA rulemaking.

2012-01-19 Order: DOE O 451.1B Change 3, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (archived)

Incorporated provisions for public review and posting of draft EAs (policy, 2010-07-16) and technical corrections. (Was modified by variances issued 2016-10-06 by the General Counsel.)

2012-06-12 Policy: Improved Decision Making through the Integration of Program and Project Management with National Environmental Policy Act Compliance (archived)

The Secretary of Energy Memorandum for Heads of Departmental Elements declared that compliance with NEPA is a prerequisite to successful implementation of DOE programs and projects, urged better use of existing tools and guidance, and highlighted principles for strengthening NEPA compliance – for example, through field and headquarters teamwork, realistic schedules, and performance accountability. The policy was retired.

2016-10-06 Order: DOE O 451.1B Change 3, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (annotated to reflect two variances) (archived)

The order issued on 2012-01-19 was modified by two variances issued by the General Counsel, regarding provision of a single paper copy of certain NEPA documents and optional assistance by the NEPA Office in filing an EIS with the Environmental Protection Agency.

2017-12-21 Policy: DOE P 451.1, National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Program (current)

Cancelled DOE Order 451.1B Change 3 (2012-01-19) and delegated authority to the Heads of Department Elements “to ensure an efficient and effective risk based approach to the implementation of DOE’s NEPA compliance program.”

1978-2011 Compilation of Federal Register notices associated with DOE's NEPA regulations and guidelines assembled into a single pdf file to facilitate searching all notices.