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How Citizens can Comment and Participate in the National Environmental Policy Act Process

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When can citizens participate during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process?

Agencies are required to provide meaningful opportunities for public participation. Key opportunities for citizens to get involved in the NEPA process include:

  • When an agency begins the NEPA analysis
  • When a NEPA document is published for public review and comment

Since the NEPA processes differ among federal agencies, it is important to review the agency’s NEPA implementing procedures. These procedures determine the specific steps in the NEPA process where there are opportunities for public involvement.

For example, some methods used by agencies to inform citizens of NEPA related actions include:

  • Publishing information in the Federal Register
  • Agency websites
  • Placing notices in newspapers and/or through direct mailings

Read more in the Council on Environmental Quality's A Citizen's Guide to NEPA. This guide describes the NEPA process and provides information on how citizens can get involved.

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What is Scoping?

The scoping process provides an opportunity for citizens to provide input on the range of issues to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). If an agency determines that an EIS is required, a Notice of Intent (NOI) is published in the Federal Register which begins the scoping process. The NOI provides a description of the proposed action and a description of the scoping process, including any scheduled meetings and how the public can get involved.

Agencies use different methods to conduct scoping, such as:

  • public meetings
  • conference calls
  • formal hearings
  • informal workshops
  • opportunities to submit written comments

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How can citizens comment on a NEPA document?

When an agency publishes a draft EIS, there is a minimum of 45 days for the public to comment on the document. Comments can often be sent via email. Agencies also conduct public meetings, where citizens can attend in person and make comment. 

EPA's EIS database lists EISs that are currently open for public comment. For each EIS, the listing includes:

  • Project name
  • Lead agency
  • Location
  • Dates comments are due
  • Person to contact about the project

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