The following addresses frequently asked questions concerning the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Environmental Assessment (EA) preparation. The Q&As will be updated as more information becomes available. Please call 202-418-1310 for additional questions you may have.
Q. Is it necessary to hire outside environmental consultants, scientists, archaeologists or historians to comply with these rules?
A. The Nationwide Programmatic Agreement (NPA) requires use of a qualified professional to perform certain aspects of review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Applicants may also need to obtain expert assistance to perform other aspects of environmental review, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, the Bureau requires that conclusions regarding effects on endangered species be supported by documentation from either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the applicant’s qualified expert.
Q. Which government agency or office can assist us in determining whether or not a proposed facility may require an environmental assessment (EA) under section 1.1307?
A. Applicants must prepare EAs for actions that may have a significant environmental impact when one or more of the circumstances that are listed in Section 1.1307 apply to a proposed facility. The opinions or judgments of other agencies with expertise over a particular subject matter can assist you in determining whether your proposed construction may affect the subject matter category over which the agency has expertise, and they can offer suggestions on how to mitigate any impacts. Federal and certain state agencies with expertise and jurisdiction over each of the categories in section 1.1307 may include:
- Wilderness Area: Relevant federal or state land management agency (e.g., National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service).
- Wildlife Preserve: Relevant federal or state land management agency (e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
- Endangered Species: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You may also contact the Commission's staff biologist, Deborah Spring, 202-418-0367, Deborah.Spring@fcc.gov.
- Historic Preservation: The relevant State Historic Preservation Officer and federally recognized Indian Tribes as required under the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement. For further assistance, contact the Commission's Deputy Federal Preservation Officer/Cultural Resources Specialist, Christine Heacock, 202-418-1503, Christine.Heacock@fcc.gov.
- Indian Religious Site: For further assistance, contact the Commission’s Deputy Federal Preservation Officer/Cultural Resources Specialist, Christine Heacock, 202-418-1503, Christine.Heacock@fcc.gov.
- Floodplain: For maps, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Surface Features: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers or state agencies.
- High Intensity Lights in Residential Neighborhoods: The Federal Aviation Administration establishes lighting requirements for facilities that may impact air safety. You may also contact the Commission's staff biologist, Deborah Spring, 202-418-0367, Deborah.Spring@fcc.gov for lighting-related NEPA concerns.
- Radiofrequency Emission: Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
- Migratory Birds: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You may also contact the Commission’s staff biologist, Deborah Spring, 202-418-0367, Deborah.Spring@fcc.gov.
Q. Should any other state or local government agency also be contacted to determine the environmental effects of a situation listed under section 1.1307?
A. Yes. You should always contact state and local government offices with responsibility over the affected subject matter, as some of these offices share jurisdiction with a federal agency. In addition, some states have environmental laws and regulations which may be more stringent than federal standards, and you must comply with all relevant laws in addition to the Commission’s NEPA rules. Finally, Section V. of the NPA requires applicants to notify the local government of proposed facilities as part of the Section 106 review process.
Q. What is the environmental notification process?
A. Information on the requirements for providing public notice of applications being submitted to the Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system can be found here.
Q. What is an EA? What does it look like? How long should it be? How can we obtain a sample of a good EA?
A. An environmental assessment, or EA, is a document that may be required during the environmental review process to assist the Bureau staff in understanding the potential environmental effects of a proposed facility. An EA filed with the Commission is placed on public notice. The EA should contain all relevant information necessary for the public to provide comments and for Bureau staff to make a determination on the extent of any environmental impacts. Section 1.1311 details what should be included in an EA, and the Bureau staff has prepared a NEPA checklist further describing what we look for in an EA. It is helpful to include as attachments, copies of all relevant correspondence with and permits or authorizations issued by local or state officials. Applicants interested in reviewing sample EAs may use the Daily Digest to look up recently approved applications with EAs. The lists of approved applications are released on Wednesdays, and have the following title: ANTENNA STRUCTURE REGISTRATION SERVICE INFORMATION, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION.
Q. Should the EA address all the categories identified in 1.1307(a) and (b) even if only one or two of those listed categories are actually affected?
A. Yes. While the EA must thoroughly address the categories that will be affected by the proposed construction, it should be comprehensive in its analysis of each of the environmental categories and provide information supporting an effect determination for the entire project. An EA is always required for towers over 450 feet in height. In these cases, the EA should also assess the tower's potential effects on migratory birds, as discussed in the Note to Section 1.1307(d).
Q. What is a "floodplain" referred to in section 1.1307(a)(6)? Is there a difference between a 100-year and a 500-year floodplain?
A. According to Executive Order 11988, a floodplain is defined as the "lowland and relatively flat area adjoining inland and coastal waters . . . including at a minimum, that area subject to a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year." This definition is often referred to as a "100-year floodplain."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the administrator of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and the federal agency with lead responsibility for flood hazard assessment and mitigation. FEMA has adopted the 100-year floodplain as the base flood standard for NFIP as that agency is mainly concerned with construction which could potentially be harmed from flooding in a 100-year floodplain, rather than a 500-year floodplain, which is an area that has a 0.2 percent chance of a flood in a year. However, FEMA is also concerned with any construction in a 500-year floodplain if the proposed project is considered a "critical action." A "critical action" is defined as any activity for which even a slight chance of flooding is too great. Relying upon FEMA's guidelines, the Bureau understands the term "floodplain" as used in Section 1.1307(a)(6) to refer to either a 100-year floodplain, or a 500-year floodplain subject to "critical action" characterization. However, to fully understand these terms and concepts, you should review FEMA's Further Advice on Executive Order 11988 Floodplain Management, and the U.S. Water Resources Council's Floodplain Management Guidelines for Implementing E.O. 11988, published on February 10, 1978, at page 6030 of volume 43 of the Federal Register.