Preparing Effective Purpose & Need and Alternatives Sections


Participants in this intermediate-advanced level two or three-day workshop will learn how to craft clear, effective, and compliant Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections for their NEPA Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). These sections are among the most important to get right in a NEPA analysis, as they serve essentially as the framework for the entire impact analysis. In addition, in recent years there has been an increasing focus in NEPA litigation on challenges to these two sections, many of which have been successful. This workshop will cover how to create effective Purpose, Need, and Proposed Action statements, as well as how to develop a reasonable range of alternatives for a given proposed federal action. Course materials will draw from the NEPA Statute, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations for Implementing NEPA, key CEQ Guidance documents, NEPA Case Law, and federal agency case studies and example documents. Agency-specific tailored workshops will concentrate on agency-specific NEPA Regulations and their corresponding policies and procedures for Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections.


Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Understand the existing statutory and regulatory policies for preparing clear, understandable and legally-sufficient Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections for their NEPA documents

  • Use the scoping process and interagency cooperation to improve the content of Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections

  • Create Purpose & Need sections that clearly articulate the agency’s underlying need for action, and proposed action statements that are concise but still convey key information in a clear manner for readers

  • Prepare Alternatives sections that present a legally-sufficient reasonable range of alternatives, and that contain an adequate explanation of alternatives considered but eliminated from detailed study

  • Understand how to craft correct “no action” and “preferred” alternatives in a NEPA EA or EIS, and the interrelationship between the “no action” alternative and the baseline used for analysis.

  • Use lessons from recent case law to prepare more effective sections


We tailor each workshop to meet the needs of the participants. The basic format of the interactive workshop includes the following components:

  • Unit 1: Existing Statutory/Regulatory Requirements and Guidance on Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections

  • Unit 2: Approaches and Techniques for creating clear, concise and legally-sufficient Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections

  • Unit 3: Overview of Case Law and Lessons Learned

  • Unit 4: Agency Project Case Studies/Examples and Lessons Learned


Participants for this training generally include resource specialists, team leaders, decisionmakers, writers and editors, planners, and other agency and private consulting professionals and attorneys who already have some NEPA experience, and who need to better understand the key requirements of creating compliant and readable Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections in their NEPA analyses.


This is an interactive workshop designed to build an overall and complete understanding of the process for creating better Purpose & Need and Alternatives sections for NEPA analyses. For optimum learning, class size is limited to between 15 and 25 participants. This workshop consists of a carefully designed combination of the following:

  • 30% Lecture

  • 35% Discussion

  • 35% Exercises and Case Studies


Participants receive the following:

  • Presentation handouts

  • Student reference manual

  • Case study handouts