Best Practices for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Management
July 2001 (Updated January 2002)
Interagency and Intra-Agency Coordination
Interagency Coordination. Coordination with Federal, State, and local agencies with jurisdiction and environmental expertise is built into the requirements that govern EISs. As with scoping, additional effort expended on interagency coordination earlier in the environmental process can yield benefits in reduced time later in the process.
- It is valuable to establish good relationships and cooperative staff-level interfaces with other agencies, without regard to a specific project. Impediments to effective working relationships caused by differences in missions, requirements, resources, and timing should be identified and managed to the extent possible.
- On a project level, the early identification of agencies having jurisdiction and/or expertise with respect to expected project impact is important to determine agency involvement. In most airport development projects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be involved. Other Federal agencies will be involved depending on the type of project and the affected environmental resources. Other Federal agencies that often have a role in airport development EISs are the Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Federal Highway Administration (due to highway work related to airport development), and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The failure to identify an agency with jurisdiction over an affected resource and to engage that agency can cause additional work and delays later in the environmental process.
- The FAA will involve other Federal agencies that have important roles in airport projects at the very beginning of an EIS. In some cases, a formal Memorandum of Understanding may be advisable to establish a written agreement of agency roles and working relationships. For the most part, FAA finds that informal arrangements are preferable and achieve results. The lack of written formality should not lower the level of commitment to effective interagency coordination.
- The involvement of State and local agencies in an EIS varies substantially by locale. The airport proprietor's project manager should bear the primary responsibility for identifying important State and local agencies to the FAA EIS project manager to assure that they are contacted early in the environmental process.
- It is useful to maintain an ongoing working relationship on major projects and, to the degree possible, to share technical and project information with key agencies as the information is developed. It is not necessary for all agencies to agree on all aspects of a proposed project or EIS. To the extent that disagreements cannot be resolved, at the least it is beneficial for FAA to avoid surprises and to make reasoned judgments on how to proceed, given disagreements.
- Other agencies should be informed of FAA's project priorities and time schedules. They should be alerted ahead of time when they will receive critical documents (e.g., scoping information, technical working drafts, Draft EIS) and notified of definitive deadlines for comment, so that the other agencies may plan and adjust their workload and resources to the extent possible.
- Regional FAA management should be alerted by the FAA EIS project manager and should intervene when staff-level cooperation with other agencies breaks down. Regional managers should refer any escalating issues that remain unresolved at regional levels to FAA headquarters.
Intra-agency Coordination. Projects that are complex enough to require an EIS generally include issues that cross divisional lines within FAA. If more than a single FAA division in the region has responsibility for a particular project (e.g., air traffic/airspace management and navigational aids associated with a new runway), it is vital to begin internal FAA coordination as early as practicable.
- It is helpful to have a regional protocol that provides internal guidance on how projects and project-specific issues will be handled across divisional lines. Such a protocol may include provisions for expedited technical and environmental reviews and coordination for high priority projects, as well as mechanisms to resolve differences of opinion and professional judgments.
- All FAA lines of business whose judgments and actions are needed to plan, implement, and operationalize an airport development project must understand that the technical and environmental details in the EIS must be correct and must accurately reflect FAA's judgment of the way the airport and related procedures and equipment will operate, once the project is constructed. The identification, review, and resolution of key issues that have a major bearing on a project's planning and environmental impacts should take place as early as possible in the planning process, rather than late in the EIS process or after the EIS has been completed.
- FAA EIS project managers should request early FAA counsel advice on issues involving compliance with environmental laws and regulations. It is important to have the early and continuous engagement of FAA environmental attorneys for complex EISs that are likely to be litigated. Environmental attorneys offer legal sufficiency advice and review, which assists in EIS quality control. However, FAA EIS project managers are primarily responsible for quality control.
- The assignment of a point of contact by each FAA line of business involved in a high priority project can facilitate smooth and knowledgeable internal coordination and continuity.