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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Core Principles for Improving the Quality of NEPA Documents
Chapter 3 Content and Process
Chapter 4 Advanced and Specialized Techniques
Chapter 5 Legal Sufficiency of NEPA Documents
Chapter 6 Achieving Continuous Improvement
This report documents an initiative of transportation practitioners nationwide to
improve the quality of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Environmental
Assessments (EAs) written to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In 2003, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
(AASHTO), the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), and the Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) joined forces in an initiative to improve the readability
and functionality of the documents prepared for transportation projects in compliance
In 2003 and 2004, an AASHTO, ACEC, and FHWA work group conducted a survey of state
Departments of Transportation (DOTs), the engineering consultant community, and
the FHWA to assess the current quality of NEPA documents and inform its future activities.
Two “environmental document quality” workshops were held in conjunction
with the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment’s annual meetings in
2004 (Snowbird, UT) and 2005 (Chicago, IL). The workshops provided additional insight
on the various opinions and issues related to the preparation of quality NEPA documents
for transportation projects.
Based on the findings of the survey and workshops, three task teams were commissioned
by the work group to address these three priority issues: 1) the quality and clarity
of NEPA documents; 2) the legal sufficiency of NEPA documents; and 3) the training
and education related to NEPA and environmental documentation.
This guide documents the efforts of the Quality and Clarity of NEPA Documents Team
and the Legal Sufficiency Team. Findings from the Education Team, which will be
updated frequently, will be made available through AASHTO’s Center for Environmental
Excellence Web site.
The first several chapters of this report address the quality and clarity of NEPA
documents. These chapters offer recommendations on ways to improve the quality of
NEPA documents by making them more effective, engaging, and useful for the public
and decision-makers, including focusing on the needs of reviewing regulatory agencies
and the legal community.
The issue of legal sufficiency for transportation-related NEPA documents is addressed
in Chapter 5. It is intended to provide state DOTs, engineering consultants, and
FHWA with a better understanding of the FHWA legal sufficiency review. It also provides
practical advice for improved development of quality and legally adequate NEPA documents.
This document is intended as a resource, not official guidance. It was developed
by a group of experienced NEPA, transportation, and environmental professionals
and represents the collective thinking of these individuals.
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