FORTY MOST ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Early Application of NEPA
8. Section 1501.2(d) of the NEPA regulations requires agencies to
provide for the early application of NEPA to cases where actions
are planned by
private applicants or non-Federal entities and are, at some
stage, subject to federal approval of permits, loans, loan
guarantees, insurance, or other actions.
What must and can agencies do to apply NEPA early in
Section 1501.2(d) requires federal agencies to take
steps toward ensuring that private parties and state
and local entities initiate environmental studies as
soon as federal involvement in their proposals can be
foreseen. This section is intended to ensure that
environmental factors are considered at an early stage in the
planning process and to avoid the situation where the
applicant for a federal permit or approval has
completed planning and eliminated all alternatives to
the proposed action by the time the EIS process
commences or before the EIS process has been completed.
Through early consultation, business applicants and
approving agencies may gain better appreciation of
each other's needs and foster a decisionmaking process
which avoids later unexpected confrontations.
Federal agencies are required by Section 1507.3(b) to
develop procedures to carry out Section 1501.2(d).
The procedures should include an "outreach program",
such as a means for prospective applicants to conduct
pre-application consultations with the lead and
cooperating agencies. Applicants need to find out, in advance
of project planning, what environmental studies or other
information will be required, and what mitigation
requirements are likely in connection with the later
federal NEPA process. Agencies should designate staff
to advise potential applicants of the agency's NEPA
information requirements and should publicize their pre-
application procedures and information requirements in
news papers and other media used by potential applicants.
Complementing Section 1501.2(d), Section 1506.5(a)
requires agencies to assist applicants by outlining
the types of information required in those cases where
the agency requires the applicant to submit environmental data
for possible use by the agency in preparing an EIS.
Section 1506.5(b) allows agencies to authorize
preparation of environmental assessments by applicants.
Thus, the procedures should also include a means for
anticipating and utilizing applicants' environmental
studies or "early corporate environmental assessments"
to fulfill some of the agency's NEPA obligations.
However, in such cases the agency must still evaluate
independently the environmental issues and take
responsibility for the environmental assessment.
These provisions are intended to encourage and enable
private and other non-federal entities to build
environmental considerations into their own planning
processes in a way that facilitates the application of
NEPA and avoids delay.