NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT (NEPA)/ ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT (EA) PROCESS
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a Federal statute that requires federal agencies to use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach for considering the potential environmental impacts of a proposed action and factoring them into the decision-making process. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations for implementing NEPA set the standards for NEPA compliance and direct federal agencies to develop their own procedures. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Order 1050.1F provides the FAA’s agency-wide policies and procedures for ensuring compliance with NEPA and the CEQ Regulations.
In determining the appropriate level of environmental review, the Airport Sponsor, at the request of the FAA, performed a preliminary noise analysis of the revised Proposed Action (10,000 foot runway instead of a 12,000 foot runway). In addition, the FAA evaluated potential changes in other anticipated environmental impact categories. The FAA also considered potential mitigation for such impacts. In light of this review, the FAA anticipates that compliance with NEPA can adequately be achieved by preparation of an EA.
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 action 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.
The preparation of this EA will be used to comply with other applicable environmental laws and regulations as identified through the environmental analysis. More specific public notice of the environmental laws, regulations, and Executive Orders being satisfied through the EA will be presented as the environmental consequences of the Proposed Action and its alternatives are better understood.
EA Preparation Schedule
The EA process typically takes approximately 12 to 18 months, including periods of study, technical review, and stakeholder (including public) input. The EA preparation schedule is provided here, and will be updated periodically. (Click picture below to enlarge)
Fall 2019 – Begin to analyze potential impacts, develop mitigation for significant impacts and prepare the Draft EA
Mid-Late 2020 – Develop alternatives and begin to evaluate potential impacts on environmental categories
Early 2021 – Publish the Draft EA, Hold Public Review and Public Meetings
Mid-2021 – Publish the Final EA, FAA Issues Federal Decision
Late-2021 – Start of Design and Construction
2028 – Project Completion
Key Agencies and Stakeholders
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
The FAA is the lead federal agency for the NEPA process. Approval of the Proposed Action is a major federal action subject to NEPA. As stated in FAA Order 1050.1F Paragraph 1-8, the FAA is responsible for complying with the procedures and policies of NEPA and other environmental laws, regulations, and orders applicable to FAA actions. The FAA decision-making process must consider and disclose the potential impacts of a proposed action and its alternatives on the quality of the human environment. The FAA 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 FAA Airport District Office (ADO), located in Memphis, Tennessee is the office directly responsible for issuing the federal decision on this EA. The Division of Airports at FAA Headquarters is also actively involved in the direction and review of the Proposed Action.
City of Charlotte
The City of Charlotte is the owner and operator of the airport and is the Airport Sponsor. The Airport Sponsor, not the FAA, is responsible for proposing airport development projects, such as the Proposed Action, that will be examined in this EA. The City of Charlotte manages the operation, maintenance, development, and marketing of CLT to serve the air transportation needs of Charlotte, North Carolina as well as serving as a major connecting hub in the national aviation system. The staff of the Airport Sponsor leads the EA process. Pursuant to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended, the Airport Sponsor must seek FAA approval to construct the Proposed Action at the Airport.
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The EA follows a process prescribed by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations. Key steps in the process are outlined below.
- Conversion of EIS to EA
FAA determined compliance with NEPA can adequately be achieved by preparation of an EA.
- Confirm Purpose and Need
Confirms the problem being addressed and describes the desired outcomes of the Proposed Action.
- Develop Alternatives
Identifies the range of reasonable and feasible alternatives that will be rigorously explored and objectively evaluated in the EA. Alternatives eliminated from detailed study, and the reasons for their elimination, will also be discussed.
- Study Affected Environment
Documents existing conditions within the project study area.
- Analyze Environmental Impact
Evaluates the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the Proposed Action and alternatives.
- Identify Mitigation
Identifies measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any potential significant impacts.
- Publish Draft EA
Identifies and describes the Proposed Action; Purpose and Need; Alternatives; Affected Environment; Environmental Impact Analysis; and Mitigation Measures. The Draft EA also identifies any special purpose environmental laws that apply to the project and demonstrates how the FAA, as the lead federal agency, will comply with those laws.
- Public Review Period
The public review period begins with publication of the Notice of Availability in the local newspapers and on the project website. The public review period, which will be 45 days, allows interested parties and members of the public to review and comment on the scope and content of the Draft EA.
- Hold Public Hearings
Provides opportunity for the public to learn about and discuss the Proposed Action with technical experts and provide oral or written comments on the Draft EA.
- Publish Final EA
Responds to public and agency comments on the Draft EA, identifies the preferred alternative, and presents the final evaluation of potential impacts and mitigation measures.
- FAA Federal Decision
Identifies the alternative the FAA has selected for implementation by the Airport Sponsor, provides the rationale for the selected alternative, and documents required mitigation measures.
As outlined in FAA Order 1050.1F, the EA will consider impacts to the following resources:
- Air quality
- Biological resources (including fish, wildlife, and plants)
- Resources protected under the Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. §303(c) (known as Section 4(f) “resources”)
- Ground Transportation
- Hazardous materials, solid waste, and pollution prevention
- Historical, architectural, archeological, and cultural resources
- Land use
- Natural resources and energy supply
- Noise and noise-compatible land use
- Socioeconomics, environmental justice, and children’s environmental health and safety risks
- Visual effects (including light emissions)
- Water resources (including wetlands, floodplains, surface waters, groundwater, and Wild and Scenic rivers)