Green Bank Observatory: NSF Releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Status Report From: National Science Foundation
Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Richard F. Green, the National Science Foundation's division director for Astronomical Sciences, issued the following statement:

On Nov. 8, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.

NSF prepared the DEIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, to evaluate the potential environmental effects of proposed changes to operations at the facility due to agency funding constraints.

The agency-preferred path forward is detailed in Action Alternative A, which involves collaboration with interested parties for continued science- and education-focused operations with reduced NSF funding.

Action Alternative A would involve the least change to the current facility and would retain the Green Bank Telescope, other appropriate telescopes, and appropriate supporting facilities to be determined with the interested parties and by a new operating arrangement.

Green Bank Observatory conducts valuable science and education activities, and NSF has funded the facility and its research and education efforts for more than half a century. At the same time, NSF relies on the scientific community to provide input on its priorities. That community has recommended NSF divestment from the observatory, as well as from other observatories currently under similar review, in response to a constrained budgetary environment.

Those recommendations were presented in the 2012 report of the NSF Portfolio Review Committee, a commissioned subcommittee of the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee. The Portfolio Review Committee was charged with recommending a balanced portfolio for NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences to maximize the science recommended by "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics," the 2010 National Academies sixth decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics.

The recommendations were further endorsed by the 2016-2017 annual report of the NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee, and the 2016 National Academies' mid-decadal report "New Worlds, New Horizons, A Midterm Assessment."

More information is available on the Green Bank Observatory Environmental Review site. Comments on the DEIS may be submitted to NSF through Jan. 8, 2018, via or via postal mail to:

Elizabeth Pentecost
National Science Foundation
Division of Astronomical Sciences, Suite W9152
2415 Eisenhower Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22314

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