Photo courtesy of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority

What is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?

NEPA is a federal statute that requires federal agencies to evaluate the potential environmental effects of a proposed project and inform and involve the public before making decisions. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the lead federal agency responsible for compliance with the requirements of NEPA.

What is an Environmental Assessment (EA)?

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) states that an EA is a “concise document” that takes a “hard look” at expected environmental effects of a proposed action. An EA defines the purpose and need for a project, considers a range of reasonable alternatives, analyzes the potential impacts of a proposed project and its alternatives, and demonstrates compliance with other Executive Orders and environmental statutes. The EA will analyze and document potential environmental effects from the Proposed Action and alternatives and develop measures that may mitigate those effects.

Why is this project being reviewed in an EA?

The FAA initially considered preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed Runway 5L/23R Replacement Program because RDUAA originally included many other potential projects from RDUAA’s Vision 2040 Master Plan. However various project elements have been eliminated from review at this time due to the industry and economic consequences of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the applicability of Section 163 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, and the FAA’s determination that certain projects were independent. The FAA agreed to first conduct an EA to determine whether an EIS is necessary. The FAA conditioned proceeding with an EA on: the Proposed Runway 5L/23R Replacement Project does not include construction activities near the William B. Umstead State Park; the FAA has the discretion to determine the appropriate level of public outreach, and the FAA remains actively involved throughout the development of the EA.

What is the difference between an EA and an EIS?

Federal regulations outline three major levels of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review relevant to airport development.

  1. Categorical Exclusion (CATEX) – applies to those actions that FAA have found (under normal circumstances) to have no potential for significant environmental impact and neither an EA nor an EIS is required. Actions that may be eligible for a CATEX are listed in FAA Order 1050.1F Paragraph 5-6.
  2. Environmental Assessment (EA) – applies to those actions that have been found by FAA to sometimes have significant environmental impacts.  The list of actions normally requiring an EA can be found in FAA Order 1050.1F, Section 3-1.2. Actions Normally Requiring an Environmental Assessment. An EA must be prepared when the proposed action does not normally require an EIS, does not fall within the scope of a CATEX, or falls within the scope of a CATEX, but there are one or more extraordinary circumstances (see FAA Order 1050.1F Paragraph 5-2, Extraordinary Circumstances).
  3. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – applies to those actions that have been found by FAA to usually have significant environmental impacts.  An EIS is the most intense level of environmental review. An EIS is a detailed written statement required under Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA when one or more environmental impacts would be significant and mitigation measures cannot reduce the impact(s) below significant levels. Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts must be considered when determining significance. The FAA manages the preparation of the EIS and may issue a Record of Decision (ROD) after the Final EIS has been released. See FAA Order 1050.1F Paragraph 3-1.3, Actions Normally Requiring an Environmental Impact Statement).

What is Section 163?

Section 163 of the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 (“Section 163”), which became law in October 2018, removes previous FAA authority to regulate certain real property and related transactions at federally-obligated airports. For every potential project at an airport, the FAA must determine if they have approval authority for the project. The determination is based on if the FAA has ALP approval, approval authority over proposed airport land use, and how the project will be funded.

What are the roles of the FAA and the Airport Sponsor in preparing the EA?

The FAA is the lead federal agency for the EA. The FAA is responsible for complying with NEPA and other environmental laws, regulations, and orders. The FAA will make its own independent evaluation of the environmental issues and take responsibility for the scope and content of the EA. The FAA also will make a final decision on whether it can issue a satisfactory environmental finding based upon the EA. The FAA will thereafter determine whether it may take the federal actions necessary to allow implementation of the project.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority is the responsible Airport Sponsor and will lead the preparation of the EA. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 requires the Airport Sponsor to obtain FAA approval to construct the Proposed Action at the Airport. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority will lead the preparation of the EA and the FAA will provide its review and oversight in the development of the document.

What is Scoping?

Scoping is an early and open process that solicits input from the public to determine the scope of issues to be addressed in the EA and to identify the significant environmental issues related to the proposed action. The scoping process is meant to focus the EA analysis on the most pertinent issues and impacts.

After scoping will I get another chance to comment on the EA?

Yes, the public will have an opportunity to provide input and comments on the EA and the potential environmental impacts after RDUAA and the FAA conducts the analyses and publishes the Draft EA.

How do I keep updated about this EA?

This website ( was developed by RDUAA and the FAA to keep the public informed about the EA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, and opportunities for public participation regarding this process. This website will be maintained throughout the EA process to keep the public updated of meetings, project developments, and opportunities for public involvement.