NEPA

Through NEPA, Congress directed federal agencies to integrate environmental factors in their planning and decision-making processes and to encourage and facilitate public involvement in decisions that affect the quality of the human environment. The FAA has established a process to ensure compliance with the provisions of NEPA through FAA Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures.

 NEPA procedures ensure that accurate and complete environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before federal decisions are made or actions are taken that may affect the environment. Federal agencies are charged with developing methods and procedures, in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), to consider environmental effects and related social and economic effects before making decisions on a proposed federal action.

CEQ provides federal leadership on the implementation of NEPA through regulations (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508) and guidance applicable across the federal government. The NEPA procedures of each federal department and agency must be consistent with the CEQ regulations and must have concurrence by CEQ. FAA Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Proceduresopens PDF file , is the FAA’s procedure for complying with NEPA and other special purpose environmental laws and regulations (for example, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act). Consistent with FAA Order 1050.1F, the FAA is responsible for conducting an environmental review under NEPA for all proposed actions and decisions within its purview that affect the environment. Additionally, FAA Order 5050.4B, NEPA Implementing Instructions for Airport Actionsopens PDF file , provides guidance to the Airports Division of FAA for implementation of NEPA. FAA actions and decisions include, but are not limited to, the approval for funding or collection of passenger facility charges to fund projects.

EIS

Federal agencies prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) if a proposed federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The primary purpose of an EIS is to provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and inform decision-makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment. It also documents measures to mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts. The EIS should focus on significant environmental issues and alternatives to reduce paperwork and the accumulation of extraneous background data. Statements contained in the EIS need to be concise, clear, and to the point, and be supported by evidence that the agency has made the necessary environmental analyses. 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 EIS PROCESS

Pre-Scoping Activities – In accordance with CEQ regulations, during pre-scoping, the FAA ensures that the proposed project is ready for environmental review; identifies potential cooperating and participating agencies, coordinates schedule and permitting requirements with each; and develops a preliminary purpose and need statement and project description.

Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare EIS – The FAA must publish an NOI in the Federal Register to officially begin preparing the EIS. The NOI includes an overview of the proposed action, the alternatives being considered (including no action), and the contact information for the responsible FAA official.

Purpose and Need and Alternatives Analysis – The FAA and the cooperating agencies will identify a preliminary purpose of and need for the proposed action. The purpose and need statement presents the problem being addressed and describes what is trying to be achieved, and also provides the parameters for defining a reasonable range of alternatives to be considered. The FAA will comparatively analyze all reasonable alternatives in detail and explain why any alternatives were eliminated from the study.

Scoping Process – NEPA requires that there be an early and open process for determining the scope of the issues to be addressed in the EIS and identifying the significant issues related to a proposed action. This scoping process is a collaborative effort that invites participation from federal, state and local agencies, as well as applicable Native American Tribes, interested stakeholders and the general public to define the range of issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS. Scoping meetings will be held to provide information and solicit input from interested and affected parties.

Reasonable Alternatives – The CEQ regulations require an EIS to “rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives” and to “[d]evote substantial treatment to each alternative considered in detail including the proposed action so that reviewers may evaluate their comparative merits” (40 CFR § 1502.14). The regulations also provide that “for alternatives which were eliminated from detailed study, [the EIS should] briefly discuss the reasons for their having been eliminated” (40 CFR § 1502.14). Alternatives can be eliminated for failing to meet purpose and need and/or for other reasons, such as being unreasonable or infeasible to construct. An alternative may be reasonable even if it is not desired by the project sponsor and/or even if it requires legislative change. When there are potentially a very large number of alternatives, only a reasonable number of examples covering the full spectrum of alternatives must be analyzed and compared in the EIS. See 40 CFR § 1502.14.

Draft EIS – The Draft EIS will identify the project’s purpose and need and reasonable alternatives, and will evaluate potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts that may result from the proposed project and any alternatives carried forward. The Draft EIS requires a minimum public review and comment period of 45 days.

Notice of Availability – All EISs are filed with the US Environmental Protection Agency which publishes a Notice of Availability each week in the Federal Register. Publication of the Notice of Availability is the start of the 45-day public comment period for Draft EISs.

Final EIS – In preparing the Final EIS, the FAA must consider all comments received on the Draft EIS and comments recorded during public meetings or hearings, and respond to substantive comments in the Final EIS. The Final EIS must identify and discuss the environmental impacts, including any unresolved environmental issues and efforts to resolve them through further consultation.

Notice of Availability of the Final EIS and Record of Decision – Publication of the Notice of Availability of the Final EIS in the Federal Register, and the Record of Decision (ROD), which explains the FAA’s decision, describes the alternatives considered, and discusses the FAA’s plans for mitigation and monitoring, if necessary.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CATEGORIES

FAA Order 1050.1F specifies the environmental impact categories that need to be assessed as part of FAA’s environmental review process.  These are:

  • Air quality
  • Biological resources (including fish, wildlife, and plants)
  • Climate
  • Coastal resources
  • Department of Transportation Act, Section 4(f), and Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act)
  • Farmlands
  • Hazardous materials, solid waste, and pollution prevention
  • Historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources
  • Land use
  • Natural resources and energy supply
  • Noise and noise-compatible land use
  • Socioeconomics, environmental justice, and children’s environmental health and safety risks
  • Visual effects (including light emissions)
  • Water resources (including wetlands, floodplains, surface waters, groundwater, and wild and scenic rivers)