The Basics of NEPA and its Role and Influence in Combating Climate Change

TÓPICOS DE DIREITO AMBIENTAL: 30 ANOS DA POLÍTICA DO MEIO AMBIENTE, Editora Lumen Juris, Forthcoming

24 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2011 Last revised: 18 May 2012

See all articles by David N. Cassuto

David N. Cassuto

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Joseph A. Edgar

Yale University

Date Written: November 15, 2011

Abstract

This paper forms part of a collection of essays celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Brazilian NEPA.

Since the enactment of NEPA in the United States, its influence has reverberated internationally. The Act’s basic design has aided in the crafting of environmental baselines throughout the world. More than 85 countries around the world have modeled their respective environmental impact assessment procedures after the United States’ NEPA model. Indeed, NEPA-like procedures have grown with such ubiquity that most any comprehensive study of international law must necessarily include a discussion of environmental impact assessment. Consequently, nearly all multilateral lending institutions -- most notably the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) and the World Bank -- require environmental impact assessment as a prerequisite to financing agreements related to energy and infrastructure projects.

More recently, NEPA, particularly the EIS process, has begun to be used a tool to mitigate the effects of climate change. Because the point of environmental assessment is to identify adverse environmental impacts before they occur, EISs are a natural tool for combating climate change drivers. Although significant obstacles continue to face the use of NEPA-based EIS statutes as a climate policy tool, their use is growing rapidly.

This chapter is broken into two parts. Part I highlights NEPA’s influence on environmental law and discusses the main determinants of its EIS process. Part II analyzes NEPA’s use as a climate policy tool and the challenges impeding its effectiveness, as well as the role “little-NEPAs” are playing in combating climate change.

Keywords: NEPA, environmental law, environmental policy, EIS, environmental impact statements, Little NEPAs, climate change, global warming, National Environmental Policy Act

JEL Classification: Q20, Q28, Q30, Q38, Z00, N40, N50, Q32, Q48, Q40, Q49, K40, K32, K23, K19

Suggested Citation

Cassuto, David N. and Edgar, Joseph A., The Basics of NEPA and its Role and Influence in Combating Climate Change (November 15, 2011). TÓPICOS DE DIREITO AMBIENTAL: 30 ANOS DA POLÍTICA DO MEIO AMBIENTE, Editora Lumen Juris, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1959991

David N. Cassuto (Contact Author)

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

Joseph A. Edgar

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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