Stage 2: Beginning the Environmental Assessment- Categorically Excluded Activities (§ 58.35(a))
Assessments for projects that are categorically excluded from NEPA requirements must still comply with non-NEPA statutes related to the environment, such as laws from the local historical society or U.S. Wildlife Service. For other projects, the requirements of both NEPA and these other statutes must be considered.
Once the environmental assessment is finished, the reviewer must declare a finding as to whether the project does or does not significantly impact the environment.
- If it does not, proceed to Stage 3.
- If it does have a significant impact, then the RE must prepare an environmental impact statement (see Stage 4).
NOTE: Statements as to an activity's designation as either exempt or categorically excluded must be included in the ERR.
Stage 3: Completing the Environmental Assessment and Reporting the Findings (when no Environmental Impact Statement is required)
In Stage 3, the RE must complete an environmental assessment. An environmental assessment must include a description of the proposed project and the completion of statutory and environmental assessment checklists:
- A sample environmental assessment checklist may assign one of the following impact categories:
The impact categories consider the degree of land development; noise; air quality; environmental design and historic values; socioeconomic; and community facilities and services. A sample Environmental Assessment format can be found in the Green Book, which can be obtained through Community Connections.
- "no impact anticipated,"
- "potentially beneficial,"
- "potentially adverse-requires documentation only,"
- "potentially adverse-requires more study,"
- "needs mitigation," or
- "requires project modification."
If the assessment indicates there is a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI), then the public must be given an opportunity to review the decision before project funds can be released. If no issues are raised during the requisite public comment period, the ER can submit a HUD Form 7015.15, "Request for Release of Funds and Certification" (RROF) to HUD (or the state, in cases of state recipients). HUD (of the state) then provides the grantee with HUD Form 7015.16, "Authority to Use Grant Funds" or an equivalent letter.
NOTE: All related documents must be placed into the ERR at the completion of this stage of the process.
Stage 4: Preparing the Environmental Impact Statement
If the RE determines that the project could significantly impact the surrounding environment, then it must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The regulations state that the purpose of an EIS is to assess "any alteration of environmental conditions or creation of a new set of environmental conditions, adverse or beneficial, caused or induced by the action or set of actions under consideration, and the alternatives to such action or group of actions." The regulations describing the components of an EIS can be found in § 58, subparts F and G, as well as in 40 CFR part 1502.