Home About RSS

Stanford Law School Policy Lab Students File Recommendations to Update National Environmental Policy Act

STANFORD, Calif., July 18, 2014 – Stanford Law School students this week filed detailed recommendations to the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality on how to update the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the nation’s foundational environmental law. Their submittal made a strong case for requiring better coordination among the project proponents, interested federal agencies, and important stakeholders so all of the key parties can identify major project flaws early, ensure that the environmental impact statements (EISs) will cover the key environmental issues (and not tangential issues that elongate the process and divert attention from the issues that matter) and that the process covers the full range of permitting and review needs.

The students worked closely with David J. Hayes, former deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior and a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Stanford Law School, in a unique policy practicum called “The National Environmental Policy Act: Pushing the Reset Button” to research the recommendations. They focused on major federal projects, for which NEPA requires the preparation of full EISs.

SLS Visiting Distinguished Lecturer David J. Hayes

SLS Visiting Distinguished Lecturer David J. Hayes

“The policy lab was an incredible experience, and a very different experience from other law school classes,” said Rebecca Vogel, JD ’15. “We learned about NEPA and the related agency regulations with an eye toward how to make the process work better in practice; that purpose really shaped our approach and added extra motivation to learn.  David’s experience in the field did not diminish his receptiveness to new ideas, and every student got the chance both to brainstorm reforms and to delve more deeply into the areas that intrigued us.”

In the submittal, students recommended that agencies be required to use modern information technology tools when preparing EISs, including searchable databases and geographic information system-based mapping. Together, these types of reforms should cut down on the preparation time for EISs, while producing better, more readable and relevant products.

“Students in the policy lab have made a major contribution to the current debate on how to improve implementation of one of our bedrock environmental laws,” said Hayes. “Their product will be an invaluable resource for the Council on Environmental Quality, legislators and other interested parties who are committed to improving the EIS process.”

In addition to Vogel, students involved in the practicum included Julia Forgie, JD ’14, Elizabeth Hook, JD ’15, Matthew Miller, JD ’15, and Laura E. Sullivan, JD ’15.

You can read more about the practicum and view the submittal in its entirety at: http://stanford.io/1nk5yTI.

One Response to “Stanford Law School Policy Lab Students File Recommendations to Update National Environmental Policy Act”

  1. John Jediny says:

    Great overview of some of the issues the Federal Government is currently facing in its implementation of NEPA. Regarding the section on “Set up Systems to Enable Access by Agencies to Robust, Searchable Databases and Updated GIS Mapping Tools”, I’m leading a pilot project at the Department of Energy that I believe addresses many of these points. Our NEPAnode project http://nepanode.anl.gov and NEPAnode’s MapWarper http://warp.nepanode.anl.gov are both made available to enable better the sharing, discovery, reuse, and collaborating of Data and Documents used in the NEPA process. Both sites are made available to all Federal Staff regardless of agency. NEPAnode allows users to directly upload, edit, and download geographic data collaboratively with other users. Users can create, save, update, and share webmaps on the site using any combination of data layers; using data hosted on the site (212 layers), data accessed as a service from other agencies, or static maps made usable by georeferencing through our MapWarper tool to create thematic or project-centric maps. Maps can be shared as embeddable webmaps for you use on other website or printed to pdf for inclusion in NEPA documents. As one example of these tools combined use, we’re using it to map out our EIS and EA both past/archived and present/active: http://nepanode.anl.gov/maps/493/view . Thank you for highlighting these issues, looking forward to contributing to their resolution.

Leave a Reply