How do NEPA and other environmental compliance requirements fit into the new feasibility study process?
The feasibility study process will continue to meet the requirements of NEPA and other applicable environmental laws and policies,
Engineer Regulation (ER) 200-2-2 (Procedures for Implementing NEPA) and
ER 1105-2-100 (Planning Guidance Notebook), offering opportunities to encourage efficient and thorough environmental
reviews that will result in quicker and better-informed decisions. This approach falls in line with the White House Council on
(CEQ) steps to modernize and reinvigorate NEPA, including a March 2013 publication of two new handbooks that encourage
more efficient environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by integrating the NEPA process with the
Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 review process and
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review processes.
The NEPA compliance process is typically used as the vehicle for achieving compliance not only with the CEQ regulations (40 CFR
parts 1500-1508), but also with a range of other environmental laws and executive orders, including but not limited to Section 7 of
the Endangered Species Act, Section 106 of the National Historic and Preservation Act, Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act, air
quality conformity requirements under the Clean Air Act.
The feasibility study process does not eliminate detail from the integrated feasibility report/NEPA document; it is about developing
the data at the right time and for the right alternatives as the study is conducted. A rigorous and credible comparison of alternatives
will still be required. However, instead of a rigorous comparison of numerous alternatives, some of which would never be carried
out based on technical, economic or environmental reasons, only those alternatives that are implementable would get the rigorous
review. This is in alignment with NEPA, which indicates that when faced with a very large number of possible alternatives, you need
only evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives. More information is provided in a SMART Planning white paper on
Environmental Evaluation and Compliance.