Bringing Environmental Assessment into the Digital Age

35 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2006

See all articles by Daniel A. Farber

Daniel A. Farber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: January 21, 2006


Imagine that you are a researcher who is interested in the environmental impacts of projects affecting a particular species of animal or watershed. No central registry exists with this information. The only way of locating the relevant environmental assessments would be to identify each potential government agency, federal, state, and local, that might be involved in such projects, and then to make a document request from each individual agency. Some of the documents would be available only in hard copy once they were found, although more recent documents might be available on compact disk. Moreover, many agencies might be unable to locate the documents themselves because there is no systematic tracking of the most common forms of environmental assessments.

It would be a significant step forward simply to make all environmental impact information available online. Combining such a database with an efficient search engine, and linking this and other environmental information through a geographic information system (GIS), could transform our ability to access environmental information. We can also try to link assessments with monitoring and other later site information, so that we can begin to evaluate our predictions and mitigation measures.

This may seem a pedestrian concept. It certainly involves no new technological breakthroughs or major legal reforms. For this reason, it is all the more dismaying that environmental information is still stranded in the era of paper copies and steel filing cabinets.

Keywords: Environmental impact statements, GIS, information technology

JEL Classification: Q21, Q29

Suggested Citation

Farber, Daniel A., Bringing Environmental Assessment into the Digital Age (January 21, 2006). UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 877625. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel A. Farber (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

Boalt Hall
Room 894
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-642-0340 (Phone)
510-642-3728 (Fax)

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