The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),42 U.S.C. §4321 et seq. (1969), was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.
NEPA requirements are invoked when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), which are assessments of the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all Federal agencies and are the most visible NEPA requirements.
NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) within the Executive Office of the President to ensure that Federal agencies meet their obligations under NEPA.
CEQ oversees NEPA implementation, principally through issuing guidance and interpreting regulations that implement NEPA's procedural requirements.
CEQ also reviews and approves Federal agency NEPA procedures, approves alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA for emergencies, and helps to resolve disputes between Federal agencies and with other governmental entities and members of the public.
NOAA’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance is overseen by the Office of General Council and the designated NOAA NEPA Coordinator.
NOAA's NEPA compliance is guided by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Regulations for Implementing NEPA, the revised NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, and a Companion Manual to the NAO entitled Policy and Procedures for Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Related Authorities (“Companion Manual”). The authorized Companion Manual provides additional, specific policies pursuant to NEPA and related authorities.