Simplifying the Complexities of NEPA, NHPA, and CEQA Compliance

Feb 3, 2022

Here at PaleoWest, we’re here to help your project run smoothly. For years we have assisted hundreds of clients successfully permit and license many different types and sizes of projects and our experience lets us take away the stress and strain often associated with regulatory compliance. 

In this article, we take a look at three of the most important and complex policies you will likely have heard of. We will help you make sense of these laws and we know how to help you meet and stay in compliance with all of them. As seasoned professionals, we are here to help guide you through this regulatory maze and simplify the process. 

The three key policies we’re talking about are:

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) 

These policies drive much of our clients’ work and need to be considered for most types of land development projects.

Although there are a host of other important regulatory demands that may factor into your individual project, this brief overview is intended to start a conversation and help you frame what we at PaleoWest do as your trusted advisor on NEPA, NHPA, and CEQA.

Let’s dive straight in.

What Are NEPA, NHPA, and CEQA? Why are they so important to Cultural Resource and Heritage Compliance?

In the United States, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are key laws that require federal agencies—and in California, state agencies—to “stop, look, and listen” before making decisions that have the potential to affect cultural resources. We here at PaleoWest carry out works relating to one or sometimes all of these laws concurrently.

Cultural resources is an umbrella term used to include archaeological, Native American, traditional, and built environment resources like historic buildings and bridges. 

What Types of Projects Require NEPA Compliance?

In basic terms, NEPA documentation is required for actions, or projects, that involve federal lands, federal funding, or require a federal permit. NEPA has been in effect since 1970.

What Types of Projects Require NHPA Compliance?

Similar to NEPA, NHPA was signed into law in 1966, and Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to take into account the effect of undertakings they carry out, license, approve, or fund on “historic properties”. Using the Section 106 process, agencies are required to document their efforts to identify the presence of historic properties that fall within a project’s area of impact, assess the potential effects to historic properties, and finally, consider alternatives to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects to resources.

What Types of Projects Require CEQA Compliance?

CEQA is a state law in California that requires state or local-level agencies to determine if there are “historical resources” within a project area and if so, whether such projects have the potential to impact those resources. It also applies to discretionary projects proposed by private or commercial entities that require state or local-level agency approval.

Why PaleoWest?

For over 15 years, our firm has been conducting environmental impact analyses for projects requiring compliance with NEPA, NHPA, and CEQA. Most of our key staff are industry veterans with decades of experience in every geography in the U.S. With experience across the spectrum—from a few acres of land to over 500,000 acres across multiple jurisdictions—we provide highly professional and business-focused solutions to our clients’ regulatory challenges. 

We are vastly knowledgeable—we’ve seen it all and have honed our skills to offer our clients sound advice and effective guidance that not only meets demands, but exceeds expectations. 

We also use the latest technologies to assist our work—innovating is part of our DNA! We approach every project individually, with a focus on efficiency and attention to schedule.

In a nutshell, we enable major construction projects to happen as quickly as possible, minimizing delays and controlling costs. 

We’re your trusted advisors. Wherever the project, whatever the need, we’ll get the job done. 

Let’s talk today, or click here to learn more about our services.