FORTY MOST ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Environmental Impact Statements on Policies, Plans or Programs
24a. When are EISs required on policies, plans or programs ?
24b. When is an area-wide or overview EIS appropriate?
- An EIS must be prepared if an agency proposes to implement a specific policy, to adopt a plan for a group of related actions, or to
implement a specific statutory program or executive directive. Section 1508.18. In addition, the adoption of official policy in the form of
rules, regulations and interpretations pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, treaties, conventions, or other formal documents
establishing governmental or agency policy which will substantially alter agency programs, could require an EIS. Section 1508.18. In
these cases, the policy, plan, or program must have the potential for significantly affecting the quality of the human environment in order
to require an EIS. It should be noted that a proposal "may exist in fact as well as be agency declaration that one exists." Section
24c. What is the function of tiering in such cases?
The preparation of an area-wide or overview EIS may be particularly useful when similar actions, viewed with other reasonably
foreseeable or proposed agency actions, share common timing or geography. For example, when a variety of energy projects may be
located in a single watershed, or when a series of new energy technologies may be developed through federal funding, the overview or
area-wide EIS would serve as a valuable and necessary analysis of the affected environment and the potential cumulative impacts of the
reasonably foreseeable actions under that program or within that geographical area.
It also includes proposals for action such as the initiation of a planning process, or a formally adopted policy statement of the local,
regional or state executive branch, even if it has not been formally adopted by the local, regional or state legislative body.
Tiering is a procedure which allows an agency to avoid duplication of paperwork through the incorporation by reference of general
discussions and relevant specific discussion from an environmental impact statement of broader scope into one of lesser scope or vice
versa. In the example given in Question 24b, this would mean that an overview EIS would be prepared for all of the energy activities
reasonably foreseeable in a particular geographic area or resulting from a particular development program. This impact statement
would be followed by site-specific or project-specific EISs. The tiering process would make each EIS of greater use and meaning to the
public as the plan or program develops without duplication of the analysis prepared for the previous impact statement.