What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law by President Nixon on January 1, 1970, setting forth, for the first time, a national policy on the protection of the environment. The purpose of NEPA is to ensure that the federal government understands and considers the potential impact of the human environment when planning and making decisions on how to use federal resources on new projects.   

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Ensuring that federal investments are planned and executed in a responsible, equitable, and environmentally sound manner is critically important to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s why all projects funded by DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act — or NEPA.

What do OCED awardees need to know about NEPA?  

There are three main types of NEPA review requiring different levels of documentation and analysis: categorical exclusion, environmental assessment, and environmental impact statement. OCED will rely on information provided by applicants, selectees, and awardees to determine what level of NEPA review is required for each project and will direct the completion of the review process. Each NEPA review is based on the unique details of the proposed project along with the baseline environmental conditions at the location.  

Applicants will either be required to include an Environmental Considerations Summary as part of the funding opportunity announcement application or shortly after selection, during the award negotiation process. Awardees will be required to prepare and submit an Environmental Information Volume as a deliverable, typically during Phase 1 of project execution.  

Awardees are encouraged to learn more about NEPA, incorporate NEPA considerations in project planning, and allocate sufficient time to follow the process.  


How can stakeholders get involved in the NEPA process?  

A major component of NEPA is to encourage early and meaningful engagement with Tribal entities, other federal and state agencies, and public stakeholders throughout the course of federal decision-making. NEPA has become one of the primary mechanisms through which the public is able to participate in the federal decision-making process.  

There are several opportunities for stakeholders to get involved in the NEPA process: 

  • When DOE revises or prepares its NEPA procedures 
  • Prior to and during preparation of a NEPA analysis 
  • When a NEPA document is published for public review and comment 
  • When a final decision is pending before the agency decision-maker 
  • When monitoring the implementation of the proposed action and the effectiveness of any associated mitigation