The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Signed by President Richard Nixon on January 1, 1970

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as amended, requires federal agencies to consider and disclose the effects of their actions on the quality of the human environment.

NEPA applies to all federal agencies and most actions taken by those agencies such as "...issuing regulations, providing permits for private actions, funding private actions, making federal land management decisions, constructing publicly-owned facilities, and many other types of actions" (Council of Environmental Quality, A Citizen's Guide to NEPA: Having Your Voice Heard, (December 2007).

NEPA is codified in Title 42 of the United States Code (USC), Chapter 55, Section 4321 et seq. The Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations for Implementing NEPA are found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter V, Parts 1500 through 1508. The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) policies and regulations for the implementation of NEPA are found at Title 23 CFR, Part 771.

The statutory purposes of NEPA are:

  1. To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment;
  2. To promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man;
  3. To enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and
  4. To establish a Council on Environmental Quality.

For more information, please see Chapter 1 of the Caltrans Standard Environmental Reference (SER) under "National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended."

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Signed by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as amended, requires public agencies to regulate activities which may affect the quality of the environment so that major consideration is given to preventing damage to the environment.

CEQA applies to all governmental agencies at all levels in California, including local agencies, regional agencies, and state agencies, boards, districts, and commissions.

CEQA is codified in Sections 21000 through 21178 of the California Public Resources Code (PRC). The CEQA Guidelines can be found in Sections 15000 through 15387 of the California Code of Regulations. The California Association of Environmental Professionals maintains a handbook of the current statute and guidelines on their website, which is updated as needed.

The statute, guidelines, amendments to the statute and guidelines, recent CEQA court decisions, and much more can be found on the CEQA page at the Governor's Office of Planning & Research website.

The basic objectives of CEQA are:

  • To disclose to decision makers and the public the significant environmental effects of proposed activities or projects;
  • To identify ways to avoid or reduce environmental damage;
  • To prevent environmental damage by requiring the implementation of feasible alternatives or mitigation measures;
  • To disclose to the public the reasons for agency approval of activities or projects with significant environmental effects;
  • To foster interagency coordination in the review of activities or projects; and
  • To enhance public participation in the planning process.

For more information, please see Chapter 2 of the SER under "California Environmental Quality Act of 1970."