Best Practices for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Management

July 2001 (Updated January 2002)


Scoping an EIS

At the beginning of an EIS, the scope of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be examined must be determined. Additional time and effort spent on the scoping process may help avoid subsequent longer delays during the EIS.

  • Scoping should be used to focus the EIS. This includes identifying the significant environmental issues that are deserving of the most study and deemphasizing insignificant issues, thereby narrowing the scope of an EIS.

  • Scoping should also be regarded as an early decision process. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations provide that "Draft environmental impact statements shall be prepared in accordance with the scope decided upon in the scoping process." (CEQ 1502.9(a)) Obviously, flexibility must be retained to make reasonable adjustments to an EIS scope if significant new circumstances or information arise during an EIS that bear on the proposal or its impacts.

  • The scoping process can be productively used to discuss and resolve questions from other agencies on the purpose and need for a proposed project and the reasonable alternatives that should be evaluated in the EIS, as well as the environmental impacts that will receive the most attention and detailed analysis. This effort may involve several iterations of discussions and exchanges of written and verbal information.

  • While not everyone may reach agreement, the more that other agencies are introduced early to the proposed project and EIS and are reasonably satisfied with the scope of it, the more that subsequent issues and comments may be foreclosed. (See more under Interagency Coordination.)

  • Based on scoping with other agencies and the public, the EIS team (whether formalized or not) should agree on the scope, project definition, and purpose and need before technical environmental analyses are started. This ensures a smoother, more systematic approach to outlining the necessary analyses and document format.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 2, 2022