The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) remains, in many federal agencies, an antiquated paper-based process that does not use the power of Internet-based technologies to encourage and facilitate expanded public participation.
It is time to modernize this legal process to provide citizens the opportunity to fully participate in NEPA processes online. In particular, modern web-based technologies should be provided to make formal comments and to engage in direct and open dialog with the government officials who make environmental decisions.
Further, all NEPA actions government-wide should be available on a central site (e.g. NEPA.gov). At this site, visitors will find a standard user interface, navigable lists of all pending decision processes, and an archive of all past decisions, all of which will be fully searchable.
For example, citizens who want to fully participate in NEPA should be able to view all projects pending across the nation at NEPA.gov. They should then have access to simple user interface that allows them to post formal comments which become viewable and searchable by any other interested citizen (similar to this Open Government Dialogue site). These comments should also be made available in a common database format for download so any person or group could use their own software and methodologies to independently analyze comments in direct competition with the comment analysis of government officials.
Of course, all other data, reports, and documents related to a NEPA project should also be placed online within legally mandated time lines that allow sufficient citizen examination and review well before any decision is made.
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