FORTY MOST ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Environmentally Preferable Alternative
6a. What is the meaning
of the term "environmentally preferable alternative" as used in
the regulations with reference to Records of Decision? How is the
term "environment" used in the phrase?
Section 1505.2(b) requires that, in cases where an EIS has
been prepared, the Record of Decision (ROD) must identify all
alternatives that were considered, ". . . specifying the
alternative or alternatives which were considered to be
environmentally preferable." The environmentally preferable
alternative is the alternative that will promote the national
environmental policy as expressed in NEPA's Section 101.
Ordinarily, this means the alternative that causes the least
damage to the biological and physical environment; it also means
the alternative which best protects, preserves, and enhances
historic, cultural, and natural resources.
The Council recognizes that the identification of the
environmentally preferable alternative may involve difficult
judgments, particularly when
one environmental value must be balanced against another. The
public and other agencies reviewing a Draft EIS can assist the
lead agency to develop and determine environmentally preferable
alternatives by providing their views in comments on the Draft
EIS. Through the identification of the environmentally preferable
alternative, the decisionmaker is clearly faced with a choice
between that alternative and others, and must consider whether
the decision accords with the Congressionally declared policies
of the Act.
6b. Who recommends or determines what is environmentally
The agency EIS staff is encouraged to make recommendations of
the environmentally preferable alternative(s) during EIS
preparation. In any event the lead agency official responsible
for the EIS is encouraged to identify the environmentally
preferable alternative(s) in the EIS. In all cases, commentors
from other agencies and the public are also encouraged to address
this question. The agency must identify the environmentally
preferable alternative in the ROD.