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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Environmental Assistance and Customer Service - SEPA - NC State Environmental Policy Act - General Information

Environmental Assistance and Customer Service

State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

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Lyn Hardison
SEPA Environmental Coordinator
252-948-3842

Lyn Hardison, DENR's SEPA Coordinator with questions or to receive a printed version of the Guidance for Preparing SEPA Documents and Addressing Secondary and Cumulative Impacts.

Download Guidance for Preparing SEPA Documents and Addressing Secondary and Cumulative Impacts:


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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 have a potential negative environmental effect upon natural resources, public health and safety, natural beauty, or historical or cultural elements of the state.

When Does SEPA Apply?

For any project that meets all three of the following criteria, an environmental document must be prepared:

(See General Statute 113A, sec. 1 to 13)

  • An action by a state agency (such as land and money appropriations, awarding grants, issuing permits, or granting licenses); and
  • An expenditure of public monies or private use of state land (or waters); and
  • Has a potential detrimental environmental effect upon natural resources, public health and safety, natural beauty, or historical or cultural elements, of the state's common inheritance.

A private company's project could require an environmental document to be prepared if it meets the three listed criteria. It is not only public projects that require environmental documentation.

Public monies:

includes all expenditures 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.

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.

DENR 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 within the parameters of the minimum criteria. If the project or activity is above the minimum thresholds established, or if there are questions regarding the applicability of SEPA, please contact the appropriate 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 agencies are as follows: Department of Administration, Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Transportation, University of North Carolina, and the Community College Sytem. To review these agencies' established minimum criteria, please visit here. 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.

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