A. Section 1502.14(d) requires the alternatives analysis in the
EIS to "include the alternative of no action." There are two distinct
interpretations of "no action" that must be considered, depending
on the nature of the proposal being evaluated. The first
situation might involve an action such as updating a land
management plan where ongoing programs initiated under existing
legislation and regulations will continue, even as new plans are
developed. In these cases "no action" is "no change" from current
management direction or level of management intensity.
To construct an alternative that is based on no management at
all would be a useless academic exercise. Therefore, the "no
action" alternative may
be thought of in terms of continuing with the present course of
action until that action is changed. Consequently, projected
impacts of alternative management schemes would be compared in
the EIS to those impacts
projected for the existing plan. In this case, alternatives would
include management plans of both greater and lesser intensity,
especially greater and lesser levels of resource development.
The second interpretation of "no action" is illustrated in
instances involving federal decisions on proposals for projects.
"No action" in such cases would mean the proposed activity would
not take place, and the resulting environmental effects from
taking no action would be compared with the effects of permitting
the proposed activity or an alternative activity to go forward.
Where a choice of "no action" by the agency would result in
predictable actions by others, this consequence of the "no
action" alternative should be included in the analysis. For
example, if denial of permission to build a railroad to a
facility would lead to construction of a road and
increased truck traffic, the EIS should analyze this consequence
of the "no action" alternative.
In light of the above, it is difficult to think of a situation
where it would not be appropriate to address a "no action"
alternative. Accordingly, the regulations require the analysis of
the no action alternative even if the agency is under a court
order or legislative command to act. This analysis provides a
benchmark, enabling decisionmakers to compare the magnitude of
environmental effects of the action alternatives. It is also an
example of a reasonable alternative outside the jurisdiction of
the agency which must be analyzed.
Section 1502.14(c). See Question 2 above. Inclusion of such an
analysis in the EIS is necessary to inform the Congress, the
public, and the President as intended by NEPA. Section