Level

FIG. 2.1.1 Three levels of analysis in the EIA process. Number in parentheses denotes paragraph in CEQ regulations which contains definition (Council on Environmental Quality 1987).

2. The proposed location for the project and why it was chosen

3. The time period required for project construction

4. The potential environmental requirements or outputs (stresses) from the project during its operational phase, including land requirements, air pollution emissions, water use and water pollutant emissions, and waste generation and disposal needs

5. The identified current need for the proposed project in the location where it is proposed (this need could be related to housing, flood control, industrial development, economic development, and many other requirements); project need must be addressed as part of the environmental documentation

6. Any alternatives which have been considered, with generic alternatives for projects including site location, project size, project design features and pollution control measures, and project timing relative to construction and operational issues; project need in relation to the proposed project size should be clearly delineated; the range of alternatives may be limited due to the individual preferences of project sponsors, primary focus on traditional engineering solutions, and time pressures for decision making (Bacow 1980)

A categorical exclusion refers to a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and have no such effect in procedures adopted by a federal agency in implementation of the CEQ regulations. Neither an EA nor an EIS is required for categorical exclusions.

An EA is a concise public document that serves to provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a finding of no significant impact (FONSI), aid an agency's compliance with the NEPA when no EIS is necessary, or facilitate preparation of an EIS when one is necessary. A FONSI is a document written by a federal agency briefly presenting the reasons why an action, not otherwise excluded, will not have a significant effect on the human environment and for which an EIS will not be prepared. A mitigated FONSI refers to a proposed action that has incorporated mitigation measures to reduce any significant negative effects to insignificant ones.

The key definition in the EIA process is significantly or significant impact since a proposed action which significantly affects the human environment requires an EIS. Significantly as used in the NEPA requires considerations of both context and intensity. Context means that significance must be analyzed relative to society as a whole (human, national), the affected region, the affected interests, the locality, and whether the effects are short- or long-term. Intensity refers to the severity of impact. The following should be considered in evaluating intensity:

1. Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse (A significant effect may exist even if the federal agency believes that on balance the effect will be beneficial)

2. The degree to which the proposed action affects public health or safety

3. Unique characteristics of the geographic area, such as proximity to historic or cultural resources, park lands, prime farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or ecologically critical areas

4. The degree to which the effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be controversial

5. The degree to which the possible effects on the human environment are uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks

6. The degree to which the action may establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects or represents a decision in principle about a future consideration

7. Whether the action is related to other actions with individually insignificant but cumulatively significant impacts (Significance exists if a cumulatively significant impact on the environment is anticipated. Significance cannot be avoided by terming an action temporary or by breaking it down into component parts)

8. The degree to which the action may adversely affect districts, sites, highways, structures, or objects listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places or may cause loss or destruction of significant scientific, cultural, or historical resources

9. The degree to which the action may adversely affect an endangered or threatened species or its habitat that has been determined to be critical under the Endangered Species Act of 1973

10. Whether the action threatens a violation of federal, state, or local law or requirements imposed for the protection of the environment

An EIS is a detailed written statement that serves as an action-forcing device to ensure that the policies and goals defined in the NEPA are infused into the ongoing programs and actions of the federal government. It provides a full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and informs decision makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment. An EIS is more than a disclosure document; it is used by federal officials in conjunction with other relevant material to plan actions and make decisions.

The definition of significantly from the CEQ regulations considers both context and intensity. Context is primarily related to the "when and where" of the impacts. The preceding ten points for intensity can be divided into two groups as follows: those related to environmental laws, regulations, policies, and executive orders (points 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10 in the list); and those related to other considerations and how they in turn may implicate environmental laws, regulations, policies, and executive orders (points 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 in the list).

Three types of EISs are pertinent (draft, final, or supplemental to either draft or final). In addition to the earlier generic definition of an EIS, the following information from the CEQ guidelines or regulations is germane (Council on Environmental Quality 1987, 1973):

1. Draft EIS: The draft EIS is the document prepared by the lead agency proposing an action; it is circulated for review and comment to other federal agencies, state and local agencies, and public and private interest groups. Specific requirements with regard to timing of review are identified in the CEQ regulations. In the draft statement the agency will make every effort to disclose and discuss all major points of view on the environmental impacts of the alternatives, including the proposed action.

2. Final EIS: The final EIS is the draft EIS modified to include a discussion of problems and objections raised by reviewers. The final statement must be on file with EPA for at least a thirty-day period prior to initiation of construction on the project. The format for an EIS is delineated in Sections 1502.10 through 1502.18 of the CEQ regulations.

3. Supplemental EIS: Lead agencies will prepare supplements to either draft or final EISs if the agency makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts exists. Lead agencies may also prepare supplements when the agency determines that the purposes of the Act will be furthered by doing so.

The procedural aspects of filing draft, final, or supplemental EISs with the Office of Federal Activities of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are addressed in Figure 2.1.2 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1989).

Public participation can be achieved in the EIA process in three ways:

1. Via an early scoping process to determine the scope of issues to be addressed and to identify the significant issues related to a proposed action

2. Via a public participation program during the EIA study

3. Via the review process for draft EISs

Figure 2.1.2 shows the public participation in environmental impact assessment.

Scoping refers to a process and not to an event or meeting. Some suggestions for planning and implementing the scoping process include:

1. Start scoping after sufficient information is available on the proposed action.

2. Prepare an information packet.

3. Design a unique scoping process for each project, plan, program, and policy.

4. Issue a public notice.

5. Carefully plan and conduct all public meetings.

6. Develop a plan for using received comments.

7. Allocate EIS work assignments and establish a completion schedule (Council on Environmental Quality 1981).

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) refers to the EIA process applied to policies, plans, or programs (Lee and Walsh 1992). A programmatic EIS is analogous to an SEA. Programmatic EISs (PEISs) can be used in the United States to address the environmental implications of the policies and programs of federal agencies. PEISs can be used to address the impacts of actions that are similar in nature or broad in scope, including cumulative impacts (Sigal and Webb 1989). Site-specific or local-action EAs and EISs can be tiered from the PEIS.

While the NEPA includes the concept of applying the EIA process to policies, plans, and programs, the majority of EISs prepared in the first twenty-five years have been on projects. However, the NEPA should be used in the formulation of policies and the planning of programs (Bear 1993). EAs and EISs can be prepared for policies (including rules, regulations, and new legislation), plans, and programs. Plans and programs can include operational considerations for extant single or multiple projects and repair, evaluation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of extant projects. Decommissioning of existing facilities also requires the application of the EIA process.

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