SEPA Glossary: Key Terms & Definitions for Developers and Consultants

SEPA Key Terms & Definitions

Best management practices (BMPs): Techniques, measures, or structural controls that are used to minimize the negative environmental impacts of development activities, such as erosion, sedimentation, and stormwater runoff.1

Cumulative impacts: The combined environmental effects of a proposed project when considered together with other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future projects or activities.2

Direct impacts: Environmental effects that are caused by a proposed project and occur at the same time and place as the project.3

Environmental assessment (EA): A concise public document that provides sufficient evidence and analysis to determine whether a proposed project may have significant environmental effects and to aid an agency's compliance with SEPA.4

Environmental impact statement (EIS): A detailed written statement that is required under SEPA for proposed projects that may significantly affect the quality of the environment. An EIS describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action and considers alternatives to the proposed action.5

Indirect impacts: Environmental effects that are caused by a proposed project but occur later in time or farther removed in distance than direct impacts, but are still reasonably foreseeable.6

Lead agency: The state agency or local government responsible for preparing an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under SEPA.7

Major development project: Any project that requires a permit or other approval from a state agency or local government and that may have a significant adverse impact on the environment.8

Mitigation: Measures taken to avoid, minimize, or compensate for the negative environmental impacts of a proposed project.9

North Carolina Department of Administration: The state agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of SEPA, with the assistance of other state agencies.10

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ): The state agency responsible for protecting North Carolina's environment and natural resources, including the implementation and enforcement of various environmental regulations.11

North Carolina Environmental Management Commission: The commission responsible for adopting rules for the protection, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air and water resources, including rules related to SEPA.12

Permit: A document issued by a state agency or local government that authorizes a specific activity or project, subject to certain conditions or requirements.13

Project proponent: The state agency, local government, private developer, or other entity proposing to undertake a project that may be subject to SEPA review.14

Public participation: The process by which the public is informed about and invited to provide input on a proposed project or agency action, typically through public meetings, hearings, or comment periods.15

Scoping: The process of identifying the significant issues, alternatives, and potential impacts to be addressed in an environmental impact statement.16

Significant adverse impact: A substantial negative effect on the environment that cannot be avoided or mitigated.17

State agency: Any department, board, commission, or other unit of the North Carolina state government.18

Sustainable development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.19

Threshold determination: The decision by a lead agency whether a proposed project may have a significant adverse impact on the environment, and thus whether an environmental impact statement is required under SEPA.20


  1. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(1)

  2. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(2)

  3. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(3)

  4. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(4)

  5. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(5)

  6. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(6)

  7. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(7)

  8. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(8)

  9. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(9)

  10. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-4

  11. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-279.1

  12. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-282

  13. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(10)

  14. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(11)

  15. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(12)

  16. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(13)

  17. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(14)

  18. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(15)

  19. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(16)

  20. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 113A-3(17)

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the . However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.