“Scoping” a proposed federal action in NEPA consists of notifying the impacted community and soliciting their input on which resource areas (i.e water resources, air quality, etc.) the agency should focus their analysis on. Generally this is done by sending out emails/postcards/letters to a pre-determined distribution list and asking for their direct responses. The process as it exists detracts from the idea of a community; as the agency often receives back redundant and unrefined individual responses. Setting up an Ideascale page for a proposed action will allow these communities to collectively collaborate around the action. The pertinent questions and issues will bubble to the top. The community is heard and the agency can now focus on the relevant issues and disregard those that are not. If done correctly the agency will substantially cut down on documentation for irrelevant issues and will be provided with a clear purpose and direction as provided by the interested parties early in the NEPA process. This process has the potential to expedite the overall schedule and costs of the NEPA process, all the while fostering better, more open and transparent government decision-making.
This will Save on: distribution and production costs (Scoping and Draft EA/EIS), work hours spent outlining the document and over-analyzing irrelevant issues, potential avoidance of litigation costs by substantially engaging the impacted community, the time and cost associated with responding to comments and altering the Draft EA/EIS after its comment period, reducing the overall length, cost, and time it takes to prepare an EA/EIS.
(To avoid alienating those without easy access to the internet, an agency should hold local on the ground scoping meetings at libraries, schools, or other locations with existing computers with internet access)