July 16, 2021
How to Write a Public Comment on an Environmental Impact Statement

The following is an excerpt from “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA,” a primer on the National Environmental Policy Act, which governs projects like the UDOT EIS. Click here for the entire document and see below for recommendations for writing an effective comment:

How to Comment

Comments may be the most important contribution from citizens.
Accordingly, comments should be clear, concise, and relevant to the
analysis of the proposed action. Take the time to organize thoughts
and edit the document submitted. As a general rule, the tone of
the comments should be polite and respectful. Those reviewing
comments are public servants tasked with a job, and they deserve
the same respect and professional treatment that you and other
citizens expect in return. Comments that are solution oriented and
provide specific examples will be more effective than those that
simply oppose the proposed project. Comments that contribute to
developing alternatives that address the purpose and need for the
action are also effective. They are particularly helpful early in the
NEPA process and should be made, if at all possible, during scoping,
to ensure that reasonable alternatives can be analyzed and considered
early in the process.

In drafting comments, try to focus on the purpose and need of the
proposed action, the proposed alternatives, the assessment of the
environmental impacts of those alternatives, and the proposed
mitigation. It also helps to be aware of what other types of issues the
decisionmaker is considering in relationship to the proposed action.
Commenting is not a form of “voting” on an alternative. The number
of negative comments an agency receives does not prevent an action
from moving forward. Numerous comments that repeat the same
basic message of support or opposition will typically be responded to
collectively. In addition, general comments that state an action will
have “significant environmental effects” will not help an agency make
a better decision unless the relevant causes and environmental effects
are explained.

Finally, remember that decisionmakers also receive other information
and data such as operational and technical information related to
implementing an action that they will have to consider when making
a final decision.