Particularly after 1900, pollution and environmental degradation became of growing public concern. In the 1960s, several events heightened the public concern for the environment. Rachel Carson published the book Silent Spring which detailed the impacts of man-made chemicals on the environment. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio burst into flames, and the Union Oil Company oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel ruptured, causing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil to be washed up on California beaches. By the early 1970s, the environment was the political issue.
In 1969, House Resolution 6750 was introduced by Congressman John D. Dingell, and Senate Bill 1075 was introduced by Senator Henry Jackson. These bills formed the basis of the National Environmental Policy Act.10 On January 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed NEPA into law which "assure[s] for all Americans safe, healthful, productive and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings."11 NEPA was a unique environmental legislation when enacted because it exerted control on federal agencies in an attempt to cause their decisions to be more responsive to environmental concerns.
The purpose of NEPA was outlined by Congress as:
"The Congress, recognizing the profound impact of man's activity on the interrelations of all components of the natural environment, particularly the profound influences of population growth, high-density urbanization, industrial expansion, resource exploitation, and new and expanding technological advances and recognizing further the critical importance of restoring and maintaining environmental quality of the overall welfare and development of man, declares that it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."12
Perhaps the most important requirement of NEPA is that an environmental impact statement (EIS) be prepared for all "major" federal actions having a significant impact on the environment. The Council on Environmental Quality defines "major federal actions" as those with effects that may be major and that are potentially subject to federal control or responsibility. Actions include new or continuing activities of federal agencies such as adoption of policy, plans, and programs, and the approval of federal or federally funded, licensed, or permitted projects.13 The EIS must contain the environmental impact of a proposed federal action, the negative environmental effects that cannot be avoided if the proposed action is implemented, alternatives to the action, and any irreversible commitments of resources that an action would involve should it be implemented.14 To determine whether there is a need to prepare an EIS, an Environmental Assessment (EA) is often prepared first.
NEPA also established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) within the executive branch. The primary purpose of the CEQ was to be an advisory council to the president on environmental issues. However, the CEQ has taken a more influential position by developing regulations governing the EIS process and its implementation by federal agencies. In addition, the Supreme Court has recognized the authority of the CEQ in establishing regulations for the implementation of NEPA.15
Approximately 20 states, including Indiana, have adopted legislation similar to NEPA.16 In 1972, the General Assembly declared that "it is the continuing responsibility of the State of Indiana to use all practicable means. . .to improve and coordinate state plans."17 This act, sometimes called the "Indiana Environmental Policy Act" or "IEPA" requires that State agencies use a "systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and decision making which may have an impact on man's environment." For "major state actions significantly affecting the quality of the environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official" is required which considers: (1) the environmental impact of the proposed action, (2) any adverse environmental impacts which cannot be avoided if the proposal is implemented, (3) alternatives to the proposed action, (4) the relationship between local short-term use of the environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and (5) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved if the proposed action is implemented. Before making this detailed statement, the responsible official "shall consult with and obtain the comments of any state agency which has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved."18
The Water Pollution Control Board, the Air Pollution Control Board, and the Solid Waste Management Board, have adopted substantively identical rules for the implementation of IEPA. The rules include the applicability and purpose, as well as environmental assessment forms. Environmental impact statements are addressed also.19
IEPA is not identical to NEPA. A notable distinction is that IEPA, unlike NEPA, exempts licensing actions from the requirement that an environmental impact statement be prepared.20 However, language is included in IEPA which cross-references NEPA.21 Also, the Indiana Court of Appeals has observed that IEPA "in parts parallels" NEPA "almost verbatim."22