Results from the Sources of Frustration & Delay in the NEPA Process Survey

Thank you to the NEPA professionals who participated in the Sources of Frustration & Delay in the NEPA Process survey that came out of the Re:NEPA “50% faster” discussion. As of today, 98 NEPA professionals have completed the survey. Below is an overview of the survey results.

I'm not familiar with this survey

If you're familiar with the survey, skip this section. If you're not familiar with the survey, here's some background information.

The Sources of Frustration & Delay in the NEPA Process survey came out of the Re:NEPA “50% faster” discussion. The purpose of the survey is to identify issues that consistently result in frustration and delay in the NEPA process. All of the issues included in this survey are from comments made in the Re:NEPA discussion . The desired outcome of the survey is to identify 2 or 3 big issues that are driving everyone crazy. Ideally, the Re:NEPA community can then brainstorm ways to address these big issues.

To view the issues included in the survey or to complete the survey, go here:

Overview Survey Results

Survey Respondents Have Worked In:

Sector Count Percent
Both Private and Government 23 23%
Private 40 41%
Government 35 36%
Total 98 100%

Sources of Frustration & Delay that Impact a Large Number of Projects

On average, what was the level of delay or frustration for projects with these issues?

How often do you run into the following issues during the NEPA process?

Sources of Frustration & Delay that Stop Projects or Cause Major Delays


On average, what was the level of delay or frustration for projects with these issues?

If you are interested in more detailed results of this survey, email me, and I'll send you a pdf with a breakdown of the issues and survey responses.

What’s Next for this Project

I heard from several people that this data should be publicized in an article. I personally don’t want to write or read a negative article with only a list of issues that are “broken” in the NEPA process. I think the next step for this project should be to publicize the above 8 issues (well, technically, 7 because 1 issue is repeated on both lists) and get ideas from the NEPA community on how to address these issues. If we get good ideas for addressing the issues, then I will write an article about the survey data along with the ideas for potential solutions.

If you have any other ideas for potential or partial solutions that specifically address the 8 issues above and your ideas should be included in an article, send your suggestions to me privately via email or DM on Twitter (@cubitplanning), or provide your suggestions publicly below.

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3 Responses to Results from the Sources of Frustration & Delay in the NEPA Process Survey

  1. Mike North March 12, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    As a reviewer of NEPA documents, I would like to share a few of my frustrations with the NEPA process. First, most NEPA documents are a “justification of decisions already made” which is contrary to NEPA, rather than a planning process, which is the intent. Second, impacts are ignored by imploring the worn out and vague commitment to employing “BMP’s”, usually in the context of erosion control and meeting water quality standards. The phrase “BMP” is an illusion to suggest that some state-of-the-art standard will be met, when in reality most often some “minimal management practice” is actually employed instead . The suggestion of a BMP might conjure up one image to one person, and a completely different image to another person. Let’s move away from lip-service commitment to “BMP’s” and come right out and state what the project will commit to in terms of mitigation. Third, most NEPA documents lack any real imagination in terms of identifying innovative mitigation for impacts, and they usually only mitigate for impacts they are legally required to mitigate for (e’.g., wetland impacts, 4[f] impacts) rather than the full suite of impacts (habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, vegetation community changes, and so forth). Fourth, real potential impacts are ignored, by pawning off responsibility to a third or fourth party. The classic example is failure to identify borrow sources for fill (or disposal sites for waste) for road and other transportation projects. (This is pawned off as the contractors responsibility; ignorance is bliss). Fifth, the writing is atrocious. The same language is repeated over and over; its copied from one section and pasted in another. Who wants to read this stuff twice , or three times?

  2. Karen Vitulano March 15, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    I really agree with Mike North’s comment above. I’ve seen so many cases where significant impacts were identified, but the DEIS concludes that BMPs will be employed so impacts will be less than significant, with no discussion on what BMPs will be used, or their potential effectiveness. Hopefully, the new CEQ guidance on mitigation will address this issue by encouraging agencies to be clear on their mitigation committments. The draft guidance looks good anyway, lets hope it stays that way.


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