MEPA Glossary: Key Terms & Definitions for Developers and Consultants

MEPA Key Terms & Definitions

Agency Action: Any action taken by a state agency that may have a significant impact on the human environment, as defined in MEPA. This includes the adoption of policies, plans, programs, or rules, as well as the issuance of permits, licenses, or other approvals (MCA § 75-1-220(1)).

Alternatives Analysis: A component of the environmental review process under MEPA that requires state agencies to evaluate reasonable alternatives to a proposed action, including the alternative of no action (MCA § 75-1-201(1)(b)(iv)(C)).

Categorical Exclusion: A category of actions that do not individually, collectively, or cumulatively cause significant impacts on the human environment, as determined by rulemaking or programmatic review adopted by the agency, and for which neither an environmental assessment nor an EIS is required (MCA § 75-1-220(5)).

Compensation: The replacement or provision of substitute resources or environments to offset an adverse impact on the quality of the human environment caused by an agency action (MCA § 75-1-220(6)).

Cumulative Impacts: The collective impacts on the human environment of the proposed action when considered in conjunction with other past, present, and future actions related to the proposed action by location or generic type (MCA § 75-1-220(3)).

Environmental Assessment (EA): A written analysis of a proposed action to determine whether an EIS is required and to assist the agency in determining the significance of impacts associated with the proposed action (MCA § 75-1-220(4)).

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A detailed written statement that describes the environmental impacts of a proposed state action and its alternatives, as required under MEPA for actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment (MCA § 75-1-220(2)).

Human Environment: Those attributes, including but not limited to biological, physical, social, economic, cultural, and aesthetic factors, that interrelate to form the environment (MCA § 75-1-220(7)).

Lead Agency: The state agency that is designated to supervise the preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement (MCA § 75-1-220(8)).

Ministerial Action: An action in which the agency exercises no discretion, but rather acts upon a given state of facts in a prescribed manner (MCA § 75-1-201(1)(b)(iv)(A)).

Mitigated Environmental Assessment: An environmental assessment that includes a discussion of mitigation, which if implemented, would reduce potentially significant impacts to below the level of significance (MCA § 75-1-220(9)).

Mitigation: Avoiding an impact by not taking a certain action or parts of an action; minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of an action and its implementation; rectifying an impact by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment; or reducing or eliminating an impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of an action or the time period thereafter that an impact continues (MCA § 75-1-220(10)).

Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA): A state law that requires state agencies to consider the environmental consequences of their actions and to inform the public about those consequences (Title 75, Chapter 1, Parts 1 through 3, Montana Code Annotated).

Programmatic Review: An analysis of the impacts on the quality of the human environment of related actions, programs, or policies (MCA § 75-1-220(11)).

Public Participation: The process by which an agency includes the public in the agency's decision-making process, which may include public meetings, hearings, opportunities for public comment, and consideration of public comments (MCA § 75-1-220(12)).

Public Scoping Process: Any process to determine the scope of an environmental review (MCA § 75-1-220(13)).

Regulatory Restriction: A rule adopted by an agency to limit or condition the use of a permit or license (MCA § 75-1-220(15)).

Residual Impact: An impact that is not eliminated by mitigation (MCA § 75-1-220(14)).

Secondary Impact: A further impact to the human environment that may be stimulated or induced by or otherwise result from a direct impact of the action (MCA § 75-1-220(16)).

Significance: The significance of an impact on the quality of the human environment, which is determined by considering the context and intensity of the impact (MCA § 75-1-220(17)).

Supplemental Review: An additional environmental review conducted for a proposed action following a determination that the action may significantly affect the quality of the human environment or when impacts are determined to be potentially significant (MCA § 75-1-220(18)).

Tiering: The coverage of general matters in broader environmental impact statements or environmental assessments, with subsequent narrower statements or assessments incorporating by reference the general discussions and concentrating on the issues specific to the statement subsequently prepared (MCA § 75-1-220(19)).

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