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Basic NEPA: The Law, Logic, and Language of the National Environmental Policy Act

Attendees will learn the basic and fundamental principles of NEPA practice in this 2-day course all the way from what NEPA is and where it came from, through how it works and when it applies, all the way through scoping NEPA documents and techniques to review the adequacy of NEPA documents. Completion of this course is excellent preparation for getting the most out of our Advanced NEPA** course.

All NEPA processes are explained: Categorical Exclusion, Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact (EA/FONSI), and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Included is a substantial handout with graphic models, updated case lists that support the models, and sample documents. All materials are based on statutes, regulations, and NEPA case law. Attendees may wish to keep the course material to serve as a reference in the workplace.

Major themes include: how to make the findings required by law; how to make the finding of no significant impact in particular; the giving of reasons; timing the NEPA process to the decision making process; all good legal reasons not to prepare an EIS; scoping a reasonable range of alternatives; and an approach to the cumulative impacts analysis that complies literally with the regulatory definition of cumulative impacts. Discussions and questions are encouraged.


The NEPA-implementing regulations have not been significantly amended since they were first published in 1978. But NEPA case law is constantly evolving as new issues are presented to the courts and new judicial opinions are published. This course is updated according to the latest judicial opinions.


The categorical exclusion is an exclusion from an EIS but it is not an exclusion from NEPA. Instead, it is one of three processes for compliance with NEPA, along with the EA/FONSI and the EIS. This course covers the NEPA process including scoping, supplementation, and tiering.


Determinations of compliance with other environmental statutes are integral to the preparation of an EA or an EIS. Thus the Endangered Species Act and the National Historical Preservation Act, for example, are woven into the course material along with other statutes and Executive Orders.

** For an advanced, seminar-style discussion of NEPA issues, attend our one-day Advanced NEPA Workshop, immediately following this course. There is a $50 discount when purchasing the 2 courses together. **

Intended Audience:

This workshop is designed to serve both as a comprehensive introduction for those new to NEPA and a refresher for more experienced professionals. The course is beneficial for federal agency staff and decision makers, attorneys, consultants, as well as members of environmental organizations and interested citizens who are concerned about the environmental effects of federal actions. Those who have taken this course in years past will benefit from updated materials based on the newest judicial opinions. Even those who have worked with NEPA their entire careers will stand to learn more about the secrets to successful NEPA compliance.

Registration: Earlybird pricing for registrations $595 / $545*; $645 / $595* thereafter. (*Reduced tuition available to employees of Native American tribes, nonprofits, and government agencies; students; and NAEP members).

For general information contact NWETC by telephone at 425-270-3274 or via e-mail at

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