Tim Kroeker points to cumulative impact analyses as a hot NEPA issue today. NEPA practitioners are currently struggling to adequately yet succinctly address cumulative impacts. For example, the Maury Island EA failed to “explain why the project’s cumulative impacts are insignificant.”
According to the court, the area of influence (AOI) in this EA was too narrow. The cumulative section considered mainly “land-based impacts” and did not adequately consider impacts to the State aquatic reserve. Because AOI was too narrowly focused, the entire analysis was inherently flawed. Interestingly, Judge Ricardo Martinez concluded that this error alone was significantly enough to trigger a non-compliance finding.
Determining AOI is a tightrope act. An AOI that is too narrow results in a non-compliance finding while an AOI that is too broad results in hundreds of wasted research hours. If you have any examples of NEPA documents that do a good job of determining the AOI, post a comment here, or send me a quick email.