State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

What is SEPA?

The North Carolina Environmental Policy Act was originally adopted in 1971, Chapter 113A Pollution Control and Environmental Article 1 Environmental Policy Act. This policy encourages wise, productive and beneficial use of the state's natural resources. The policy also encourages maintaining a healthy environment, preserving the state's natural beauty and creating public awareness of the environment through education. When applicable, the policy requires state agencies to consider and report the environmental aspects and consequences of actions involving spending public funds or using public land; and to provide means to implement these purposes.

On June 19, 2015, Governor Pat McCrory signed Session Law 2015-90, 2015 SEPA Reform, into law. This law transformed the criteria significantly in which a SEPA review would be required. Key criteria must now be considered to determine if a proposed action may require a SEPA review: significant expenditure of public money or use of public land for projects and programs significantly affecting the quality of the environment of the state. 

When Does SEPA Apply?

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

  • An expenditure of $10 million in funds provided by the state of North Carolina for a single project or action or related group of projects or action


land-disturbing activity of equal to or greater than 10 acres of public lands resulting in substantial, permanent changes in the natural cover or topography of those lands (or waters)

  • An action by a state agency, 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.

Need help in determining the level of environmental impact or detrimental environmental effect?  DEQ has developed minimum criteria to identify those projects requiring an environmental document (scroll to page 7).

If federal funds are involved, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) may apply. 

General Information

This section provides a general overview of SEPA, information regarding other state agencies' established minimum criteria and guidance in environmental document preparation.

Review Process

This section provides a step-by-step outline of the different steps involved in review of the environmental document required for SEPA.

Review Process Charts

These flowcharts provide a step-by-step outline involved during the review of the environmental document required for SEPA as well as state Department of Environmental Quality's internal review process. 

Infographic           Infographic

Click on image for full PDF

Laws and Regulations

The list below provides links to SEPA laws, regulations and environmental document preparation guidance.

North Carolina's Protected, Threatened and Endangered Species and Classifications

Learn about our protected, threatened and endangered wildlife, as well as species that aren’t hunted, trapped or fished.

Data Search on Rare Species, Significant and Natural Areas

The N.C. Natural Heritage Program (NC NHP) is part of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The NC NHP has developed an online data search on rare species, natural communities, significant natural areas and land managed for conservation and other information. You may also submit an information request about a specific site, if you are not familiar with using the online data search.

Division of Water Resources

This is a link to additional SEPA information that the state Division of Water Resources developed for its water quality programs.

State Clearing House

This is a link to the N.C. Department of Administration's office that coordinates the review of environmental documents among all state agencies.

Contact: Lyn Hardison, SEPA Environmental Review Coordinator, at (252) 948-3842 if you have questions pertaining to the DEQ SEPA process and regulations.

Washington Regional Office
943 Washington Square Mall
Washington, NC 27889