The National Environmental Policy Act Essay Example


The relationship between humans and Earth is beautifully powerful. But more often than not, humans test Earth and its abilities every day. For humans, technological advances are beneficial to us and allow us to complete our daily activities with ease. But for Earth, it can be damaging and endanger the planet’s future. That is why it is predominant to change our ways and live our lives with sustainability and use technology that is beneficial to both us and our planet. Each country faces different challenges based on their location, so it is up to their citizens and governments to address those issues. Fortunately, the United States has implemented its own laws to reinforce standards and keep the environment healthy-one of which includes the National Environmental Policy Act. 

The National Environmental Policy Act, more commonly known as NEPA, was created during a time where the environment suffered a variety of damaging consequences. The United States had an increase of industrialization, urban and suburban growth, and pollution during the 1960’s. The country lacked strong air quality standards due to the endless pollution flowing into the atmosphere, resulting in deadly smog. Mercifully, the public recognized these issues and created a pandemic of concern and interest in the environment following many famous leaders and written publications. One of the most influential writing was the book, Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson. The book gave a detailed yet painfully true argument that humans make a powerfully negative impact on the environment. The book’s mass attention brought forth a wave of concerned citizens, which augmented over the decade. The president during this time, Nixon, was also a supporter of the movement. President Nixon promoted environmentalism and signed two acts, one of which includes NEPA. The act was written in 1969 but wasn’t signed as a law until January 1, 1970. This marked the beginning of the environmental cause as it was the first major law to be written and passed.

The Environmental Policy Act was written to persuade federal agencies to reconsider their projects that would have an influence on nature and its wildlife. This law asks that agencies go through a process to assess the potential environmental impact of their proposal and to consider reasonable alternatives to those actions. Each proposed project gets categorized into three levels that distinguishes its damaging effects. Projects categorized into the first level, Categorical Exclusion, are found to have no significant impact and are exempt from a detailed environmental analysis and can proceed with their plans. Projects that do have an affect, are put into the second level, Environmental Assessment. The assessment is a public and brief document that describes why the project will not have a consequential effect on the environment. If the document does not pass the requirements, the project is then moved onto the third level, Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is a more detailed evaluation that describes the expected environmental effects of the action—including adverse impacts, reasonable alternatives, and any irreversible changes—and assesses both short and long-term benefits. At this time, individuals have the opportunity to comment on the document and members of the public are allowed to address their concerns. Although this entire process is very detailed, it is important to remember that the act in itself does not prohibit any projects from being stopped. This procedure is simply a final opportunity to prevent the act and make those proposing it reconsider their decision. 

Although this law may seem useless since it does not prevent harmful projects from taking place, it has impacted society significantly and has achieved a myriad of accomplishments. It has encouraged productive and enjoyable harmony between human life and the environment and promotes efforts to eliminate destruction. Secondly, it permits officials and the public to have access to information on these issues; which contributes to a more productive and successful process. Over time, some states have implemented similar laws, mandating that their agencies consider the environmental impact when making their proposals. NEPA has been applied to any and all major projects that involve federal funding and requires a permit issued by a federal agency. The act’s accomplishments include: saving money, time, lives, endangered species, historical sides, and public lands. With the implementation of the act, it has encouraged compromise and cultivating better projects that impact society in a positive way. NEPA has been deemed as both successful and democratic, as millions of Americans have contributed to the process and prevented a diverse amount of obstructive projects.

As someone who is newly yet highly invested in the environment, this act gave me some aspiration for our country and planet’s future. I enjoy learning and staying informed about current issues and this act was new to me. At a first glance I was disappointed to learn that the act does not prohibit any negative projects. But as I continued my research and learned of all the act’s accomplishments, I was relieved. This process uses pathos and logos to persuade companies to keep the environment a priority. As society begins to advance, it is paramount to have a caring mindset and laws to protect the planet. To protect our future, our environment, and all those who inhabit it.

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