What is an Environmental Impact Statement? - Definition, Requirements & Example

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  • 0:05 Environmental Impact
  • 0:54 NEPA and Environmental…
  • 2:52 EIS Requirements
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document that takes into consideration the environmental impact of a proposed action. Learn how an EIS is used to ensure that the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are met.

Environmental Impact

What is the environmental impact of building an airport? What, if any, negative effects could wildlife be subject to if a mining operation goes ahead with expansion plans? What are the risks to the local community's water supply from the newly proposed natural gas drilling site?

Before an airport is built, a mine is allowed to expand its operations, a site gets approved to drill for natural gas or any similar action is given the 'go ahead,' a document must be drafted that carefully considers the impact this action will have on the environment. In this lesson, you will discover how an environmental impact statement is used and how it helps meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

NEPA and Environmental Impact Statement

In the 1960s, there was a growing concern among U.S. citizens over damage to the environment caused by increases in industrial and manufacturing activities, as well as increased building of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and power plants.

These concerns culminated into an environmental law called the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The NEPA is the U.S. environmental law that established a nationwide policy promoting the protection of the environment. The National Environmental Policy Act ensures that concerns about environmental issues, such as water or air pollution, soil erosion and loss of natural habitats, are thoroughly considered in any decision-making processes.

To meet NEPA requirements, federal agencies prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, which is a document required for any action that may significantly impact the environment. An EIS provides a detailed statement outlining any potential environmental impact, whether it be positive or negative, for a proposed action, such as the building of an airport, the expansion of a mining operation or drilling for natural gas.

In other words, before any federally controlled project is given the right to start construction or operation, a detailed EIS must be completed that not only takes into consideration the environmental impact of the proposed action but also presents any alternatives to those actions.

The EIS is submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, which is an independent federal agency that works to reduce pollution and protect the environment. The EPA reviews and comments on the EIS, ensuring that the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are met. A database of all filed EISs is maintained by the EPA.

EIS Requirements

The National Environmental Policy Act requires an EIS for any project or action that is federally controlled and has the potential to significantly impact the environment. This would include projects that are federally funded or require a federal license.

The environmental impact statement must discuss all aspects that could potentially impact the environment. This would include indirect effects of a project. For example, if a forest is cut down to make room for a hydropower plant, how could the economy and health of the local population be indirectly affected? Other considerations that must go into the preparation of an EIS include how the proposed project might interfere with other activities, the energy and resource demands of the project and how to preserve historic and cultural qualities of the surrounding area.

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