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environmental impact statement

environmental impact statement, analysis of the impact that a proposed development, usually industrial, will have on the natural and social environment. It includes assessment of long- and short-term effects on the physical environment, such as air, water, and noise pollution, as well as effects on employment, living standards, local services, and aesthetics. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 as well as many state and local laws enacted during the late 1960s and early 1970s mandate that these statements be completed before major development projects can begin.

Federal-level environmental impact statements are written by any federal agency on its own behalf or on behalf of a state, local, or private concern that it regulates or funds. Because of the complexity of the environment and the many ways any one project might impinge upon it, the authors of an environmental impact statement usually represent many areas of expertise and may include biologists, sociologists, economists, and engineers. The types of projects covered include dredging, highway or dam construction, and real estate development. A draft statement is submitted to concerned government agencies, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, and to the public for consideration. In some cases litigation arises from environmental groups who want to block a project or from parties who feel that the assessment overstates the risks to the environment to the detriment of economic interests.

See R. K. Jain, L. V. Urban, and G. S. Stacey, Environmental Impact Analysis (2d ed. 1981).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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