Retroactive Laws–Environmental Law–Retroactive Application of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

On January I, 1970, Congress took a major step in the continuing struggle to control man’s exploitation of his environment by enacting the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). This Act, hailed by some conservationists as one of the most important environmental developments of the decade, is designed primarily to prevent the misuse and abuse of the environment resulting either directly or indirectly from federal agency activity. In essence, by establishing a broad national policy giving a strong priority to the consideration of ecological factors and by implementing procedures designed to bring agency action into line with this policy, the Act may provide the basis from which actions may be brought to compel federal agencies to justify their decisions in terms of the effect that those decisions will have on the environment. It is thus hoped that consideration of environmental factors ultimately will achieve a position of primary importance in the formulation of agency decisions and that the failure of an agency to assign proper importance to these factors will provide a basis for challenging its actions.