Defining the Project Purpose Under NEPA: Promoting Consideration of Viable EIS Alternatives

21 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2018

Date Written: July 30, 2018


The National Environmental Policy Act of 19691("NEPA") mandated major changes in the decision making processes of federal agencies. NEPA encourages comprehensive, scientific, and systematic analysis of environmental problems by using procedural requirements to generate information for agency and public benefit. Under NEPA, all federal agencies must submit an environmental impact statement ("EIS") for any federal action that significantly affects the environment. Importantly, an EIS requires discussion of alternatives to the proposed action. Significantly, however, only those alternatives that can achieve the project's purpose need be discussed. This Comment examines how courts should construe EIS project goals under NEPA. Part I provides the basic foundation for EIS alternative analysis by outlining NEPA's goals, framework, and legal development. Part II identifies and discusses two conflicting positions in current case law supporting narrow versus general goal formulations in project purpose evaluation.To resolve this conflict, PartIII suggests that courts should reject the narrow formulation in evaluating a project's purpose and objectively inquire into the effect and purpose of the agency's action.

Keywords: NEPA, National Environmental Policy Act, EIS, EIS alternatives, EIS conflict, CEQ regulations, CEQ guidelines, judicial interpretation, federal regulation, environmental policy, agency, agency discretion, environmental agency, environmental effects, environmental participation, public policy

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K10, K19, K30, K39, Q19, Q50, Q58, Q59

Suggested Citation

Czarnezki, Jason J., Defining the Project Purpose Under NEPA: Promoting Consideration of Viable EIS Alternatives (July 30, 2018). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 599, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Jason J. Czarnezki (Contact Author)

Pace University - School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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