||The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a maritime, military agency within the Department
of Homeland Security which by law has eleven required missions and its three core
missions are Maritime Safety, Maritime Security and Maritime Stewardship1. As a
lead federal agency the USCG is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)2
and the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) regulations3. The NEPA and CEQ regulations
prescribe very detailed instructions to ensure compliance using an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS)4. The detailed instructions include certain requirements for conducting
public scoping; the public being a key element in the NEPA process. However, in most
cases, USCG actions do not require an EIS and therefore public involvement is rarely
used during the agency’s NEPA process5.
In most cases, during the USCG NEPA process the use of Environmental Assessments (EA)
and Categorical Exclusions (CE) are determined to be the most appropriate NEPA documentation
for their projects. Neither the CEQ regulations nor any USCG regulations require
any public involvement during the NEPA process when using the EA or CE. CEQ regulations
require the mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)6 be made available
to the public but that is after the decision making process is complete. The public
is not normally afforded any opportunity to review or provide comments prior to final
decisions being made on proposed projects to be completed by the USCG using EAs and
CEs. While there are no violations of the law, this is not within the spirit of NEPA.
The spirit of NEPA is a shared decision making process with the federal agency and
This paper will examine the intent of the NEPA and CEQ regulations in regards to public
involvement process. Secondly, it will discuss the current USCG NEPA implementing
policy and finally it provides two recommendations to improve public’s involvement
within the USCG’s NEPA program.