NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the effects of proposed actions on the human environment. Analyses and documentation prepared to comply with NEPA may include categorical exclusions (CEs), environmental assessments (EAs), or environmental impact statements (EISs).
Categorical Exclusions (CE) (40 CFR 1501.4) – Categories of actions that normally do not have a significant effect on the human environment, and therefore do not require preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
Environmental Assessments (EA) (40 CFR 1501.5) – Shall briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).
Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) (40 CFR 1502) – Shall provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and shall inform decision makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment. Agencies shall focus on significant environmental issues and alternatives and shall reduce paperwork and the accumulation of extraneous background data. Statements shall be concise, clear, and to the point, and shall be supported by evidence that the agency has made the necessary environmental analyses.
NEPA Process for Applicants
To ensure an efficient and effective environmental review process under NEPA, applicants are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with NEPA and ensure that their project teams have the necessary NEPA expertise, which could include hiring companies or consultants that specialize in NEPA. The CHIPS Program Office (CPO) will require extensive cooperation from applicants throughout the NEPA process.
After reviewing the application information, the CHIPS environmental team engages in discussions with the applicant to:
Fully understand the scope and siting of the project and obtain any missing or incomplete environmental information as required in the application
Identify the appropriate level of environmental review as described above (i.e., CE, EA, or EIS)
Identify other federal agency involvement in the project and relevant permits, consultations, and/or approvals that may be applicable (e.g., Clean Water Act - Section 404 wetland permits; Clean Air Act – Title V air emission permits; Consultations and Approvals pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, or Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act)
Explain that if the level of environmental review will be an EA or an EIS, CPO will notify the State NEPA Clearinghouse point of contact – as well as potentially interested, federally recognized Native American tribes of CPO federal action – and will engage with states and tribes in the NEPA process
Advise applicants that incomplete or insufficient information can prolong the environmental review process