I'm not entirely sure where this fits, so I thought I'd bring it up in the FAC. Anyway, as part of my research/reading, I've been looking at environmental assessment methods, in particular SEA, EIA and LCA. What's the US view/usage like?
SEA = Strategic Environmental Assessment and is like EIA, only for policies, plans and programmes.
EIA = Environmental Impact Assessment (or Environmental Assessment when discussing roads/highways/whatever their called) is aimed at project level. Incidentally, the number of EIS being received for road construction and major road improvements in the UK have decreased in the last 5 years - there is some debate over whether this shows a move from growth to maintenance of the system or that the planners have found a way around them. <ducks behind desk>
LCA = Life Cycle Assessment which looks at the whole life cycle of a product (or supply of a service) in comparison to a similar product (or method of providing that service).
In the UK, due to EU legislation, EIA has been used since 1988, while the EU legislation for SEA has just cleared so it'll be another couple of years or so before it's mandatory in the UK. LCAs are strictly voluntary and usually done to prove that a company's product is 'green' but is being picked up by the construction sector because it complements the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim, dispose) and the targets thereof that are being imposed on it (the sector). The reports and statements are considered long and unweildy (which they often are), and they are not often attended to. For example, planning permission may be denied because an EIS has not been submitted, but a project is unlikely to be stopped simply because of a bad EIS or poor mitigation plans or great impact. Not exactly what environmental assessment was intended for. And quite a few projects (and policies) escape the requirewments these days anyway as developers learn to get around the laws.