This CRS report was prepared for members and committees of Congress. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of the actions they propose to take by preparing one of three NEPA documents. Actions that fit within a categorical exclusion (CE) undergo a relatively low level of review because these are actions that an agency has found do not have a significant effect on the environment. A CE may not be used when extraordinary circumstances occur. An environmental assessment (EA) provides a more comprehensive level of review and may be prepared when an agency wishes to determine whether an action requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). An EIS is the most comprehensive NEPA document; it requires, among other things, that the agency explain how the proposed action will affect the environment; what unavoidable adverse effects will result; and what alternatives to the proposed action exist. The report covers the approaches used by the USDA Rural Development Agency and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
CRS report on hydraulic fracturing and NEPA