General Information

SEPA-Environmental Review Document

The North Carolina (or state) Environmental Policy Act of 1971 (SEPA) requires state agencies to review and report the environmental effects of all activities that involve an action by a state agency, an expenditure of public monies or private use of public land, and the potential negative environmental effect upon natural resources, public health and safety, natural beauty, or historical or cultural elements of the state.

Public Monies

Public monies includes the expenditure of $10 million of state funds used in the construction phase(s) of the project in support of the proposed activity by federal, state or local public or quasi-public entities (1A NCAC 25 .0108). Tax credits or incentives that are available after the facility is operating do not activate SEPA.

Public Lands

"Use of public land" means land-disturbing activity of greater than 10 acres that results in substantial, permanent changes in the natural cover or topography of those lands that includes:

a. The grant of a lease, easement or permit authorizing private use of public land; or

b. The use of privately owned land for any project or program if

(i) the state or any agency of the state has agreed to purchase the property or to exchange the property for public land and

(ii) the use meets the other requirements of this subdivision.

Defining "detrimental environmental effect"

Defining the potential impact a project or activity may have on the environment and other resources is difficult. This determination is necessary to evaluate the applicability of SEPA and the type of environmental document(s) that must be prepared.

DEQ has developed rules establishing minimum criteria (please see 15A NCAC 01C .0503 - .0505) based on the size and type of project or activity. Generally, an environmental document will not be required for any project or activity that falls below the minimum criteria. If the project or activity exceeds the established minimum criteria, or if there are questions regarding the applicability of SEPA, please contact the DEQ lead agency for guidance.

Every state agency with the responsibility of funding or approving a publicly funded project is responsible for complying with the State Environmental Policy Act. There are other departments of state government that have established minimum criteria and specific thresholds. These additional state agencies are: Department of Administration, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Department of Transportation, University of North Carolina, and the Community College System. Learn more about these agencies' established minimum criteria. Proposed projects which fall below these minimum criteria do not require environmental analyses.

If a project has federal involvement, it may require the preparation of a report under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If a report has been prepared for NEPA, and submitted for review through the State Clearinghouse process, then additional filing under SEPA is not required.

To Prepare an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS)

For a proposed project or activity, an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. Generally, an environmental assessment is prepared for a proposed project or activity. If the environmental document does not satisfy a finding of no significant impact (FONSI), then an EIS must be prepared. Thus, if it is known prior to document preparation that a project will have significant impacts, an EIS can be prepared initially.

If a project or activity will require an environmental document, but there are questions as to the type of environmental document that must be prepared, please contact the appropriate agency for guidance.

Historical SEPA Guidance Document: Guidance for Preparing SEPA Documents and Addressing Secondary and Cumulative Impacts 
(Please note: this is a resource to help prepare an environmental document. Not all of the content contained herein is current.)