Airport planning and development projects that include Federal involvement require an environmental review. The FAA is obligated by statutory and regulatory requirements to evaluate the environmental impacts of all proposed developments shown on an approved airport layout plan. Applicable regulations include the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Air Act, Airport and Airway Improvement Act.
FAA Policy on Environmental Review
The FAA must carefully analyze and evaluate the impact that a proposed development presents to the environment. This involves a systematic and multidisciplinary approach for the purpose of assuring compliance with NEPA. FAA Order 5050.4, "National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Implementing Instructions for Airport Projects" establishes the FAA official policy on meeting NEPA requirements. The FAA can not proceed with programming and funding any AIP project until the environmental review is complete.
As the proponent of the improvement, the airport owner is responsible for identifying all environmental issues. The airport owner must develop and consider alternatives to the proposed development. The owner does this by preparing an environmental assessment (EA). The type and size of project will affect the extent of the environmental review. Specific projects can be categorically excluded from an extensive environmental review. Airport owners should consult with the FAA early in the planning process to determine if a categorical exclusion determination is appropriate for their specific development.
The FAA is responsible for independently analyzing and evaluating the environmental consequences identified in the sponsor's environmental assessment. After verifying the adequacy and sufficiency of the environmental assessment, the FAA will issue either a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The FAA documents the formal determination by issuing a Record of Decision (ROD). FAA may proceed with programming and funding a project if a favorable determination is reached.
Basic Steps of NEPA Review
The basic steps to complete a NEPA review are as follows:
- Coordinate with FAA Environmental Specialist to determine what level of NEPA review is required for a particular AIP project.
- Discuss consultant selection information with the FAA Environmental Specialist.
- Complete consultant selection process and submit a draft of the consultant agreement to the FAA Environmental Specialist for review prior to executing the agreement.
- Begin steps to complete a draft Categorical Exclusion (Catex) checklist or draft Environmental Assessment (EA) as appropriate.
- If an EA is indicated, it should address all proposed AIP projects the Sponsor anticipates accomplishing at the airport within the next 5 years.
- An EA template is available from the FAA environmental specialist to assist a Sponsor with meeting minimum requirements for an EA.
- Submit draft of the Catex or EA to the FAA Environmental Specialist before finalizing the document.
- For EAs, the FAA-approved draft EA must be advertised for public comment. The Sponsor must incorporate all received public comments into a second draft for FAA review prior to finalizing the EA.
- FAA provides final approval.
- For a Catex determination, this may be by signing the Catex document or by an e-mail from the FAA indicating the Catex is approved.
- For EAs, the FAA issues a FONSI/ROD.