About the EIS Process
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to disclose to decision-makers and the interested public a clear, accurate description of potential environmental impacts of proposed federal actions. 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.
The FAA’s goal is to ensure timely, effective, and efficient environmental reviews of the proposed project. 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. Each federal agency is charged with developing methods and procedures, in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), to give environmental values appropriate consideration in agency decisions along with economic and technical values.
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 guidance 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 Procedures is the FAA’s guidance for complying with NEPA and other special purpose environmental laws and regulations (e.g., Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act). Consistent with this Order, 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 Actions, 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.
Federal agencies prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) if a proposed major 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 shall be used by federal officials in conjunction with other relevant material to plan actions and make decisions.
One Federal Decision
One Federal Decision is the framework outlined in Executive Order (EO) 13807, Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects. These are projects where:
The lead federal agency has determined that it will prepare an EIS
Multiple authorizations by federal agencies will be required to proceed with construction
Project sponsor has identified the reasonable availability of funds sufficient to
complete the project
The One Federal Decision process requires that the lead agency establish a permitting timetable in consultation with all cooperating and participating agencies. The permitting timetable for the LGA Access Improvement Project EIS can be found here.
The EIS Process
Permitting Review Timetable – Executive Order 13807 requires that each major infrastructure project will have a permitting timetable for environmental reviews and authorizations. Agencies will be held accountable to those timetables through performance measures and financial penalties.
Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare EIS – The FAA must publish an NOI in the Federal Register to initiate the preparation of 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.
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 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.
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.
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 Part 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 Part 1502.14). Alternatives can be eliminated for failing to meet purpose and need and/or for other reasons. 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 Part 1502.14.
Draft EIS – An EIS is a detailed written statement that defines the purpose and need for a project, considers a range of reasonable alternatives, analyzes the potential impacts, and identifies measures that may mitigate the effects of a project. The Draft EIS will evaluate the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts that may result from the proposed action. The Draft EIS is published for public review and comment for a minimum of 45 days.
Notice of Availability – All EISs are filed with the United States Environmental Protection Agency which publishes a Notice of Availability each week in the Federal Register. The Notice of Availability is the start of the 45-day public comment period for Draft EISs.
Final EIS - A Final EIS must take into consideration all comments received on the Draft EIS and comments recorded during public meetings or hearings and respond to the substantive comments in the Final EIS. The Draft EIS must be revised to reflect comments received, issues raised through the public involvement and public meeting or hearing process, and other considerations. The Final EIS must identify and discuss any unresolved environmental issues and efforts to resolve them through further consultation.
Record of Decision (ROD) – The ROD 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:
Biological resources (including ﬁsh, wildlife, and plants)
Department of Transportation Act, Section 4(f)
Hazardous materials, solid waste, and pollution prevention
Historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources
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)