UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Environmental impact statements : a study of content requirements and several assessment methods DeAngelis, Michael Vincent


Environmental impact statements (EIS) have been required in the U.S. since the National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law on January 1, 1970. Although no legal requirement exists in Canada, in December of 1973 the federal government announced a policy of preparing an EIS for all "major" projects having "significant" effect on the environment . The evolution of the EIS requirement in the U.S. indicates the major purpose of impact statements is to produce information concerning the full important consequences of a proposal to relevant government agencies, the interested public and to decision-makers so that each person can reach a rational decision about the social worth of the intended project. The ultimate objective of impact reports and a concomitant public and government agency review process is to facilitate more socially rational decisions about proposed projects. The methodology in this study involved developing a set of criteria based upon the literature to determine whether an EIS has adequately provided the kind of information in a manner necessary to fulfill its intended purpose. Five impact statements were critically reviewed and discussed in light of several methods proposed for assessing environmental impact. The more important shortcomings identified in the environmental reports were thereby isolated and analyzed. The following general shortcomings were identified in five impact statements critically reviewed: 1) There was some difficulty in comprehensively identifying all important socio-cultural and ecological impacts. 2) Not enough information was always provided so that the reader could value the importance of an identified impact. 3) In some cases an adequate discussion of the curtailment of future beneficial uses of the environment was not completed. 4) An analysis of alternatives was not completed adequately in all impact reports. 5) All impact reports had characteristics which would hinder the communication of information to readers. These shortcomings were generally discussed in reference to different environmental assessment methods. Three basic conclusions resulted: 1) A comprehensive checklist of impacts should be part of any impact evaluation method used by an agency in order to ensure that all important consequences of proposals are identified. Networks are the most comprehensive type of checklist because they link causal actions to primary, secondary and multiple-order impacts. 2) Evaluation methods which mold economic, socio-cultural and ecological impacts into common units for comparison should not be utilized as a basis for preparing an EIS. These methods judge the importance of each impact for the reader, which is contrary to the main purpose of impact reports. 3) Most evaluation methods identified in this study do not provide guidance in preparing the environmental impact report itself. These evaluation methods would not resolve at least three shortcomings of the impact statements critically reviewed. Therefore, the recommendations of this study consist of EIS preparation guidelines that enable persons preparing the environmental impact report to avoid the shortcomings which were identified in the thesis. These guidelines relate to the following six points: 1) The purpose and scope of an EIS. 2) Integrating impact reports into the planning process. 3) Recommendations concerning the development of impact checklists. 4) An evaluation approach which defines impacts in separate quantitative and certain key qualitative terms. 5) Several general considerations and a method of summarizing an EIS in order to facilitate impact communication. 6) A flexible and general EIS format which lists most of the important requirements of an impact report.

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