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Fact Sheet

Green Bank Observatory Review Process

NSF announces start of environmental review regarding proposed changes to operations at Green Bank Observatory

Green Bank Observatory

NSF seeks feedback on proposed changes to operations at Green Bank Observatory.

October 28, 2016

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

On Oct. 19, 2016 the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced in the Federal Register the beginning of an environmental impact statement process to evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with proposed changes to operations at Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.

The announcement also provided information regarding the commencement of a 30-day public comment period during which the public is invited to provide input into preliminary proposed alternatives and resource areas to be analyzed.

Two public meetings will be held Nov. 9, 2016, during which oral public comments will be received. The public comment period remains open until Nov. 25, 2016. Anyone interested in providing comments can do so via email or regular mail. Further information regarding this process and ways to provide public comments to NSF are described below.

What is the Proposed Action?

NSF is conducting scoping meetings to obtain feedback on proposed operational changes due to funding constraints at Green Bank Observatory (GBO). A range of alternatives is being considered for evaluation in an environmental impact statement (EIS). These alternatives will be refined through continued public input, with preliminary alternatives that include the following:

  • Collaboration with interested parties for science- and education-focused operations with reduced NSF-funded (Agency-preferred Alternative)
  • Collaboration with interested parties for operation as a technology and education park
  • Mothballing of facilities (suspension of operations in a manner such that operations could resume efficiently at some future date)
  • Demolition and site restoration
  • Continued NSF investment for science-focused operations (No-Action Alternative)

What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of proposed actions on the environment prior to making final decisions. The NEPA review process is intended to provide the public with an opportunity to comment and provide input into those decisions.

On Oct. 19, 2016, NSF announced the beginning of the scoping process and solicitation of public comments to identify issues to be analyzed in an EIS. The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, including identification of viable alternatives. Additional opportunities for public participation will be available throughout the process.

What is Section 106?

NSF also intends to initiate consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to evaluate potential effects on historic properties, if any, as a result of the proposed action. Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to consult with interested parties and the State Historic Preservation Officer regarding potential effects of their proposed actions on nationally significant historic properties.

Who owns, funds and manages GBO?

NSF owns GBO and provides funding via a Cooperative Agreement with Associated Universities Inc. (AUI) for its operation and maintenance for the benefit of research communities. On Oct. 1, 2016 GBO was separated from the NSF-funded National Radio Astronomy Observatory. This separation follows a plan that was first communicated to the research community by NSF on March 22, 2013, in Dear Colleague Letter NSF 13-074.

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation provides additional funding to AUI to support research in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at GBO. Other GBO funding partners include the NANOGrav Project (through a separate NSF funding line) and West Virginia University. GBO is the anchor and administrative site of the 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone.

EIS Timeline

Scoping Comment Period: Oct. 19, 2016 through Nov. 25, 2016

  • Public meetings Nov. 9, 2016 from 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., Green Bank Science Center

Draft EIS release: Nov. 9, 2017

  • 60-day comment period on draft EIS
  • Public meetings on draft EIS Nov. 30, 2017 from 5-8:30 p.m., Green Bank Science Center

Final EIS target release: Fall 2018

NSF Record of Decision target release: Early 2019

How to Submit Comments:

Email: Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 8, 2018 and may be submitted during the public meeting or by email at

Mail: Elizabeth Pentecost, National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Room W9152, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Additional information will be posted throughout the EIS process at

Updated November 8, 2017


Media Contacts
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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