990.23 Compliance with NEPA and the CEQ regulations.§ 990.23 Compliance with NEPA and the CEQ regulations.
(a) General. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing NEPA, 40 CFR chapter V, apply to restoration actions by federal trustees, except where a categorical exclusion or other exception to NEPA applies. Thus, when a federal trustee proposes to take restoration actions under this part, it must integrate this part with NEPA, the CEQ regulations, and NEPA regulations promulgated by that federal trustee agency. Where state NEPA-equivalent laws may apply to state trustees, state trustees must consider the extent to which they must integrate this part with their NEPA-equivalent laws. The requirements and process described in this section relate only to NEPA and federal trustees.
(b) NEPA requirements for federal trustees. NEPA becomes applicable when federal trustees propose to take restoration actions, which begins with the development of a Draft Restoration Plan under § 990.55 of this part. Depending upon the circumstances of the incident, federal trustees may need to consider early involvement of the public in restoration planning in order to meet their NEPA compliance requirements.
(c) NEPA process for federal trustees. Although the steps in the NEPA process may vary among different federal trustees, the process will generally involve the need to develop restoration plans in the form of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement, depending upon the trustee agency's own NEPA regulations.
(1) Environmental Assessment. (i) Purpose. The purpose of an Environmental Assessment (EA) is to determine whether a proposed restoration action will have a significant (as defined under NEPA and § 1508.27 of the CEQ regulations) impact on the quality of the human environment, in which case an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating the impact is required. In the alternative, where the impact will not be significant, federal trustees must issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) as part of the restoration plans developed under this part. If significant impacts to the human environment are anticipated, the determination to proceed with an EIS may be made as a result, or in lieu, of the development of the EA.
(ii) General steps. (A) If the trustees decide to pursue an EA, the trustees may issue a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Restoration Plan/EA, or proceed directly to developing a Draft Restoration Plan/EA.
(B) The Draft Restoration Plan/EA must be made available for public review before concluding a FONSI or proceeding with an EIS.
(C) If a FONSI is concluded, the restoration planning process should be no different than under § 990.55 of this part, except that the Draft Restoration Plan/EA will include the FONSI analysis.
(D) The time period for public review on the Draft Restoration Plan/EA must be consistent with the federal trustee agency's NEPA requirements, but should generally be no less than thirty (30) calendar days.
(E) The Final Restoration Plan/EA must consider all public comments on the Draft Restoration Plan/EA and FONSI.
(F) The means by which a federal trustee requests, considers, and responds to public comments on the Draft Restoration Plan/EA and FONSI must also be consistent with the federal agency's NEPA requirements.
(2) Environmental Impact Statement. (i) Purpose. The purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is to involve the public and facilitate the decisionmaking process in the federal trustees' analysis of alternative approaches to restoring injured natural resources and services, where the impacts of such restoration are expected to have significant impacts on the quality of the human environment.
(ii) General steps. (A) If trustees determine that restoration actions are likely to have a significant (as defined under NEPA and § 1508.27 of the CEQ regulations) impact on the environment, they must issue a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Restoration Plan/EIS. The notice must be published in the Federal Register.
(B) The notice must be followed by formal public involvement in the development of the Draft Restoration Plan/EIS.
(C) The Draft Restoration Plan/EIS must be made available for public review for a minimum of forty-five (45) calendar days. The Draft Restoration Plan/EIS, or a notice of its availability, must be published in the Federal Register.
(D) The Final Restoration Plan/EIS must consider all public comments on the Draft Restoration Plan/EIS, and incorporate any changes made to the Draft Restoration Plan/EIS in response to public comments.
(E) The Final Restoration Plan/EIS must be made publicly available for a minimum of thirty (30) calendar days before a decision is made on the federal trustees' proposed restoration actions (Record of Decision). The Final Restoration Plan/EIS, or a notice of its availability, must be published in the Federal Register.
(F) The means by which a federal trustee agency requests, considers, and responds to public comments on the Final Restoration Plan/EIS must also be consistent with the federal agency's NEPA requirements.
(G) After appropriate public review on the Final Restoration Plan/EIS is completed, a Record of Decision (ROD) is issued. The ROD summarizes the trustees' decisionmaking process after consideration of any public comments relative to the proposed restoration actions, identifies all restoration alternatives (including the preferred alternative(s)), and their environmental consequences, and states whether all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm were adopted (e.g., monitoring and corrective actions). The ROD may be incorporated with other decision documents prepared by the trustees. The means by which the ROD is made publicly available must be consistent with the federal trustee agency's NEPA requirements.
(d) Relationship to Regional Restoration Plans or an existing restoration project. If a Regional Restoration Plan or existing restoration project is proposed for use, federal trustees may be able to tier their NEPA analysis to an existing EIS, as described in §§ 1502.20 and 1508.28 of the CEQ regulations.