Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

    Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
    • EIS is a formal process used to predict how a development project or proposed legislation will affect such natural resources as water, air, land, and wildlife. The environmental impact statement was first introduced in 1969 in the United States as a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. Since then, an increasing number of countries have adopted the process, introducing legislation and establishing agencies with responsibility for its implementation.

    • EISs range from brief statements to extremely detailed multi-volume reports that require many years of data collection and analysis. In general, the environmental impact assessment process requires consideration and evaluation of the proposed project, its impacts, alternatives to the project, and mitigating strategies designed to reduce the severity of adverse effects. The assessments are completed by multidisciplinary teams in government agencies and consulting firms.

    The content of the assessments generally follows guidelines in the National Environmental Policy Act. Assessments usually include the following sections:
      • Background information describing the affected population and the environmental setting, including archaeological and historical features, public utilities, cultural and social values, topography, hydrology, geology and soil, climatology, natural resources, and terrestrial and aquatic communities;
      • Description of the proposed action detailing its purpose, location, time frame, and relationship to other projects;
      • The environmental impacts of proposed action on natural resources, ecological systems, population density, distribution and growth rate, land use, and human health. These impacts should be described in detail and include primary and secondary impacts, beneficial and adverse impacts, short and long term effects, the rate of recovery, and importantly, measures to reduce or eliminate adverse effects;
      • Adverse impacts that cannot be avoided are described in detail, including a description of their magnitude and implications;
      • Alternatives to the project are described and evaluated. These must include the "no action" alternative. A comparative analysis of alternative permits the assessment of environmental benefits, risks, financial benefits and costs, and overall effectiveness;
      • The reason for selecting the proposed action is justified as a balance between risks, impacts, costs, and other factors relevant to the project;
      • The relationship between short and long term uses and maintenance is described, with the intent of detailing short and long-term gains and losses;
      • Reversible and irreversible impacts;
      • Public participation in the process is described;
      • Finally, the EIS includes a discussion of problems and issues raised by interested parties, such as specific federal, state, or local agencies, citizens, and activists.

    • The environmental impact assessment process provides a wealth of detailed technical information. It has been effective in stopping, altering, or improving some projects. However, serious questions have been raised about the adequacy and fairness of the process. For example, assessments may be too narrow or may not have sufficient depth.

    • The alternatives considered may reflect the judgment of decision makers who specify objectives, the study design, and the alternatives considered. Difficult and important questions exist regarding the balance of environmental, economic, and other interests. Finally these issues often take place in a politicized and highly charged atmosphere that may not be amenable to negotiation. Despite these and other limitations, environmental impact assessments help to provide a systematic approach to sharing information that can improve public decision-making.

Last modified: Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 11:22 PM