Happy 40th anniversary, NEPA
|Frost settled over the Fermilab prairie during a winter day. The National Environmental Policy Act ensures that environmental and conservation factors are included in planning.
At the end of 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - the first major environmental law in the United States — passed Congress with nearly unanimous bi-partisan support. NEPA was then signed into law on Jan. 1, 1970, ushering in the environmental-law decade of the 1970s.
NEPA set forth environmental protection and conservation as a U.S. policy, and ensures the public has an opportunity to participate in environmental decision making. It established a framework to ensure that environmental factors, along with economic and technical factors, receive appropriate consideration. That means the assessments for all experiments and projects include calculations of their impacts on air, sound, water, soil and traffic flow as well as looking at ways to minimize these impacts.
As a Department of Energy facility, Fermilab both complies with and benefits from this law. For example, NuMI and NOvA had to go through the process of developing an environmental assessment at Fermilab and the Minnesota sites to prove that they would not have a significant impact.
On Jan. 4, President Barack Obama recognized NEPA's 40th anniversary and signed a proclamation celebrating its accomplishments. Although much has changed since 1970, a need remains for the tools provided by NEPA.
"America's economic health and prosperity are inexorably linked to the productive and sustainable use of our environment," Obama said in his proclamation. "With smart, sustainable policies like those established under NEPA, we can meet our responsibility to future generations of Americans, so they may hope to enjoy the beauty and utility of a clean, healthy planet."
During the past 40 years, NEPA has served to successfully improve collaboration, consensus, accountability and transparency. So happy 40th anniversary, NEPA. And cheers to the benefits that a clean, healthy environment brings to all people.
-- Teri Dykhuis, ESHS NEPA compliance coordinator
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