[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 164 (Monday, August 25, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 50578-50589]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-20199]



40 CFR Parts 1500, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508

Effective Use of Programmatic NEPA Reviews

AGENCY: Council on Environmental Quality.

ACTION: Notice of Availability, Request for Public Comments on Draft 
Guidance on Effective Use of Programmatic National Environmental Policy 
Act Reviews.


SUMMARY: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is publishing draft 
guidance on when and how Federal agencies can effectively use National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) programmatic reviews. Guidance on 
programmatic NEPA reviews has been requested by the agencies and 
attention on programmatic NEPA reviews has increased as agencies are 
increasingly undertaking broad landscape scale analyses for proposals 
that affect the resources they manage. This guidance is designed to 
assist agency decision-makers and the public

[[Page 50579]]

in understanding the environmental impacts from proposed large-scope 
Federal actions and activities and to facilitate agency compliance with 
NEPA by clarifying the different planning scenarios under which an 
agency may prepare a programmatic, broad-scale, review. The guidance 
also addresses how agencies can prepare such reviews to ensure they are 
timely, informative, and useful for advancing decision-making.
    The goal of this guidance is to encourage a more consistent 
approach to programmatic NEPA reviews so that the analyses and 
documentation will allow for the expeditious and efficient completion 
of any necessary tiered reviews. It builds on guidance issued since 
1981 that explained the use of tiering and its place in the NEPA 

DATES: Submit comments on or before October 9, 2014.

ADDRESSES: The NEPA Draft Guidance Documents are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/and http://www.nepa.gov. Submit electronic comments on the NEPA Draft Guidance 
``Effective Use of Programmatic NEPA Reviews'' to http://www.whitehouse.gov/webform/submit-comments-draft-guidance-programmatic-nepa-reviews, or in writing to The Council on Environmental Quality, 
Attn: Horst Greczmiel, 722 Jackson Place NW., Washington, DC 20503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The Council on Environmental Quality 
(ATTN: Horst Greczmiel, Associate Director for National Environmental 
Policy Act Oversight), 722 Jackson Place NW., Washington, DC 20503. 
Telephone: (202) 395-5750.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This draft guidance will apply to Federal 
agencies in accordance with sections 1507.2 and 1507.3 of the CEQ 
Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National 
Environmental Policy Act, 40 CFR Parts 1500-1508. The National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370, enacted in 1970, 
is a fundamental tool used to harmonize our environmental, economic, 
and social aspirations and is a cornerstone of our Nation's efforts to 
protect the environment. NEPA recognizes that many Federal activities 
affect the environment and mandates that Federal agencies consider the 
environmental impacts of their decisions before acting. Additionally, 
NEPA emphasizes public involvement in government actions affecting the 
environment by requiring that the benefits and risks associated with 
proposed actions be assessed and publicly disclosed.
    CEQ, which is charged with overseeing NEPA, recognizes that NEPA is 
a visionary and versatile law that can be used effectively to address 
new environmental challenges facing our nation and also to engage the 
public widely and effectively. Programmatic NEPA reviews are one method 
of NEPA implementation that merits increased attention and use to 
facilitate agency compliance with NEPA, and enhance the quality of 
public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the 
environment. For example, programmatic NEPA environmental reviews 
provide another mechanism for agencies to address efforts on improving 
environmental reviews for various sectors and types of Federal 
activities such as infrastructure \1\ and disaster recovery.\2\ In 
March 2012, CEQ published guidance focused on improving the efficiency 
and timeliness of NEPA environmental reviews \3\ and this guidance 
provides NEPA practitioners with another tool to improve the 
effectiveness and efficiency of NEPA reviews.

    \1\ See Federal Infrastructure Projects, Permitting Dashboard, 
available at http://www.permits.performance.gov/.
    \2\ See Unified Federal Review, available at http://achp.gov/unified_federal_review.html.
    \3\ Council on Environmental Quality, Memorandum for Heads of 
Federal Departments and Agencies: Improving the Process for 
Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (March 6, 2012), available at 

    CEQ interprets its regulations as allowing for the use of a 
programmatic review in an Environmental Assessment (EA) as well as in 
an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A programmatic NEPA review may 
be appropriate when the action being considered falls into any one of 
the categories of Federal actions subject to NEPA, including: (1) 
Adopting official policy; (2) adopting formal plans; (3) adopting 
agency programs; and (4) approving multiple actions.
    CEQ is seeking public comment on this guidance for 45 days. The 
draft guidance and Appendix A which provides a table of key 
distinctions between programmatic and the subsequent tiered NEPA 
reviews are available for review and comment here and at the CEQ Web 
site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/. 
Appendices B (CEQ regulations and guidance relevant to programmatic 
reviews) and C (examples of successful programmatic NEPA reviews) are 
also available for review on that Web site. CEQ welcomes your comments 
and any suggestions on all the Appendices.
    Public comments are requested on or before October 9, 2014. CEQ 
intends to make all comments received available online without change, 
including any personal information provided, unless the comment 
includes information claimed to be Confidential Business Information 
(CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. 
Please do not include any personal information or any information that 
you consider to be Confidential Business Information or otherwise 
protected as part of a public comment.

    Dated: August 14, 2014.
Michael J. Boots,
Acting Chair, Council on Environmental Quality.

Effective Use of Programmatic NEPA Reviews

I. Introduction
    A. Purpose of This Guidance
    B. The Nature of Programmatic NEPA Reviews
II. Programmatic NEPA Reviews in the Council on Environmental 
Quality Regulations
III. When to Use a Programmatic and Tiered NEPA Review
IV. Practical Considerations for Programmatic Reviews and Documents
    A. Determining the Scope of the Programmatic NEPA Review
    1. Purpose and Need
    2. Scope of Analysis
    3. The Proposed Action
    4. The Alternatives
    5. The Impacts
    B. Collaboration, Public Engagement, and Coordination With Other 
Environmental Reviews
    1. The Importance of Collaboration and Cooperation
    2. Public Involvement
    3. Coordination With Other Environmental Reviews
    C. Preparing the Documents
    1. Programmatic Environmental Assessment or Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement?
    2. Level of Detail in Programmatic NEPA Documents
    3. Depth of Impact Analysis in Programmatic NEPA Documents
    D. Mitigation and Monitoring
    E. Handling New Proposals While Preparing a Programmatic NEPA 
    F. The Decision Document
V. Subsequent Proposal-Specific NEPA Reviews
    A. Deferred Issues
    B. Tiering NEPA Reviews
    C. New Information and Supplementing Documents
VI. The Lifespan of a Programmatic NEPA Document
VII. Conclusions

[[Page 50580]]

    A. Table of Key Distinctions Between Programmatic and Tiered 
    B. CEQ Regulations and Guidance
    C. Sample Programmatic Analyses

I. Introduction

    A programmatic National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review 
should assist agency decision-makers and the public in understanding 
the environmental impacts from proposed large scope Federal actions and 
activities. The analyses in a programmatic review are valuable in 
setting out the broad view of environmental harms and benefits, which 
can then be relied upon when agencies make decisions based on the 
Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) or Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS),\4\ as well as decisions based on 
a subsequent (tiered) \5\ NEPA review. Programmatic NEPA reviews should 
result in clearer and more transparent decision-making, as well as 
provide a better defined and more expeditious path toward decisions on 
proposed actions. Agencies are encouraged to revise or amend their NEPA 
implementing procedures, if necessary, to allow for analyses at a 
programmatic level.

    \4\ The terms PEA and PEIS are also know by some Federal 
agencies as generic or tier 1 NEPA review.
    \5\ ``Tiering'' refers to an approach where federal agencies 
first consider the broad, general impacts of proposed program, plan, 
policy, or large scope project--or at the early stage of a phased 
proposal--and then conduct subsequent, narrower, decision focused 
reviews. See 40 CFR 1502.20 and 1508.28.

A. Purpose of This Guidance

    This guidance was prepared to assist Federal agencies to improve 
and modernize their use of programmatic NEPA reviews (analysis and 
documentation). The term ``programmatic'' describes any broad or high-
level NEPA review; it is not limited to a NEPA review for a particular 
program.\6\ Programmatic NEPA reviews assess the environmental impacts 
of proposed policies, plans, programs, or projects for which subsequent 
actions will be implemented either based on the PEA or PEIS, or based 
on subsequent NEPA reviews tiered to the programmatic review (e.g., a 
site- or project- specific document). Programmatic NEPA reviews 
designed to meet NEPA responsibilities for proposed actions without a 
tiered review are governed by the same regulations and guidance that 
apply to non-programmatic NEPA reviews. They should be developed and 
their adequacy judged as a stand-alone final NEPA review. This guidance 
addresses both programmatic NEPA reviews that make decisions applicable 
to subsequent tiered NEPA reviews and programmatic NEPA reviews without 
any subsequent review.

    \6\ For example, programmatic NEPA reviews are used when 
agencies revise forest or land and resource management plans, 
establish programs to eradicate or control invasive species, develop 
infrastructure with a multijurisdictional footprint, or develop 
multiple similar recovery projects following a major disaster.

    The programmatic approach under NEPA has not been fully used for 
its intended purpose and when used, it often has not fulfilled agency 
or stakeholder expectations.\7\ On March 6, 2012, the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) published guidance highlighting the 
efficiencies provided for in the CEQ Regulations Implementing the 
Procedural Requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ 
Regulations) \8\ and received feedback from several stakeholders that 
additional guidance on programmatic and tiered NEPA reviews would 
provide a valuable addition to agency practices and procedures for 
providing more timely and efficient NEPA reviews.\9\

    \7\ Council on Environmental Quality, National Environmental 
Policy Act Task Force Report: Modernizing NEPA Implementation (Sept. 
24, 2003) (finding that reliance on programmatic NEPA documents has 
resulted in public and regulatory agency concern that programmatic 
NEPA documents often result in a ``shell game'' of when and where 
deferred issues will be addressed, undermining agency credibility 
and public trust. The report found that the public may fail to 
understand: (1) The significance of the broad decisions being 
analyzed; and (2) that the specific details will be provided in 
subsequent site-specific documents. On the other hand, when 
programmatic NEPA documents are focused, some respondents fear that 
some issues and analyses will be deferred and ultimately never 
addressed. The NEPA Task Force found that agencies that provide the 
greatest specificity in programmatic documents have the greatest 
difficulty in maintaining the viability and durability of these 
documents. This difficulty associated with maintaining document 
relevancy has led some agencies as well as members of the public to 
conclude that preparing programmatic NEPA documents is not cost 
effective. The recommendation of the Task Force was that CEQ develop 
advice to agencies on the analytical requirements associated with 
the different uses of programmatic NEPA reviews, to foster agreement 
and consistency between agency decisions and public expectations), 
available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/ntf/20030929memo.pdf.
    \8\ Council on Environmental Quality, Memorandum for Heads of 
Federal Departments and Agencies: Improving the Process for 
Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (March 6, 2012), available at 
    \9\ This guidance is not a rule or regulation, and the 
recommendations it contains may not apply to a particular situation 
based upon the individual facts and circumstances. This guidance 
does not change or substitute for any law, regulation, or any other 
legally binding requirement and is not legally enforceable. The use 
of non-mandatory language such as ``recommend,'' ``may,'' 
``should,'' and ``can,'' is intended to describe CEQ policies and 
recommendations. The use of mandatory terminology such as ``must'' 
and ``required'' is intended to describe controlling requirements 
under the terms of NEPA and the CEQ Regulations, but this document 
does not establish legally binding requirements in and of itself.

    This guidance is designed to provide practitioners with guidance to 
assist in the preparation and proper use of programmatic NEPA reviews, 
and help agencies inform and meet public expectations for programmatic 
reviews that will enhance the focus and utility of public review and 
comment. It builds on guidance issued in 1983 that explains the use of 
tiering and its place in the NEPA process.\10\

    \10\ Council on Environmental Quality, Guidance Regarding NEPA 
Regulations, Memorandum for Heads of Federal Agencies (July 28, 
1983), available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/1983/1983guid.htm.

    This new guidance focuses specifically on NEPA reviews and not on 
other types of programmatic analyses. CEQ recognizes that analyses 
conducted outside the context of NEPA can also play an important role, 
for example, in assessing existing conditions. Although these types of 
analyses may be used--either by incorporation by reference or as a 
starting point for developing the NEPA review--an analysis prepared by 
an agency is not a NEPA programmatic review unless that agency is 
making decisions on a proposed Federal action. This important 
distinction was explained in previous NEPA guidance which referred to a 
non-NEPA programmatic review as a joint inventory or planning study:

In geographic settings where several Federal actions are likely to 
have effects on the same environmental resources it may be advisable 
for the lead Federal agencies to provide historical or other 
baseline information relating to the resources. This can be done 
either through a programmatic NEPA analysis or can be done 
separately, such as through a joint inventory or planning study. The 
results can then be incorporated by reference into NEPA documents 
prepared for specific Federal actions so long as the programmatic 
analysis or study is reasonably available to the interested 

    \11\ Council on Environmental Quality, Guidance on the 
Consideration of Past Actions in Cumulative Effects Analysis (June 
24, 2005), available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/Guidance_on_CE.pdf.

B. The Nature of Programmatic NEPA Reviews

    A PEA or PEIS addresses the general environmental issues and 
concerns at a broad policy or program level, and can effectively frame 
the scope of subsequent site- and project-specific proposed Federal 
actions. A well-crafted NEPA programmatic review provides

[[Page 50581]]

the basis for broad or high-level decisions such as identifying 
geographically bounded areas within which future proposed activities 
can be taken or identifying broad mitigation and conservation measures 
that can be applied to subsequent tiered reviews.
    One advantage of preparing a programmatic NEPA review for 
repetitive agency activities is that the programmatic NEPA review can 
effectively provide a starting point for the analysis of cumulative and 
indirect impacts. Using such an approach allows an agency to 
subsequently tier to this analysis, and address more narrow, site-
specific, details. This avoids repetitive broad level analyses in 
subsequent tiered NEPA reviews and provides a more comprehensive 
picture of the consequences of possible actions. An agency relying on a 
programmatic NEPA review must consider whether the depth of analysis 
needed for a tiered action requires adding to, or building on, the 
analysis provided in the programmatic NEPA document. A programmatic 
NEPA review can also be an effective means to narrow the consideration 
of alternatives and impact discussions in a subsequent tiered NEPA 
    Decision-makers may also call for a programmatic NEPA review for 
other reasons. For example, programmatic analyses may serve to 
influence the nature of subsequent decisions, thereby providing for an 
integrated and sustainable policy, planning framework, or program. 
Programmatic NEPA reviews may also support policy- and planning-level 
decisions when there are limitations in available information and 
uncertainty regarding the timing, location, and environmental impacts 
of subsequent implementing action(s). For example, in the absence of 
certainty regarding the environmental consequences of future tiered 
actions, agencies may be able to make broad program decisions and 
establish parameters for subsequent analyses based on a programmatic 
review that adequately examines the reasonably foreseeable consequences 
of a proposed program, policy, plan, or suite of projects.

II. Programmatic NEPA Reviews in Council on Environmental Quality 

    The concept of ``programmatic'' NEPA reviews is imbedded in the CEQ 
Regulations Implementing the Procedural Requirements of NEPA (CEQ 
Regulations) that address analyses of ``broad actions'' and the tiering 

    \12\ 40 CFR parts 1500-1508.

    The CEQ Regulations state in relevant part that environmental 
impact statements may be prepared, and are sometimes required, for 
broad Federal actions such as the adoption of new agency programs or 
regulations, and that agencies shall prepare statements on broad 
actions so that they are relevant to policy and are timed to coincide 
with meaningful points in agency planning and decisionmaking.\13\ The 
regulations also state that when preparing statements on broad actions 
(including proposals by more than one agency), agencies may find it 
useful to evaluate the proposal(s) in one of the following ways: 
geographically, including actions occurring in the same general 
location, such as body of water, region, or metropolitan area; 
generically, including actions that have relevant similarities, such as 
common timing, impacts, alternatives, methods of implementation, media, 
or subject matter; or by stage of technological development, including 
Federal or Federally assisted research, development or demonstration 
programs for new technologies which, if applied, could significantly 
affect the quality of the human environment.\14\ CEQ interprets its 
regulations as allowing for the use of a programmatic approach in 
developing an EA as well as in an EIS.

    \13\ 40 CFR 1502.4(b).
    \14\ 40 CFR 1502.4(c).

    CEQ interprets its regulations as allowing for the use of a 
programmatic approach in developing an EA as well as in an EIS.
    In cases where a policy, plan, program, or broad project analysis 
identifies but does not provide sufficiently in-depth analysis for 
potential future actions, then subsequent analyses are appropriate and 
are referred to as ``tiered'' analyses. Tiering is one way ``to relate 
broad and narrow actions and to avoid duplication and delay.'' \15\ 
Appendix A provides a table of key distinctions between programmatic 
and the subsequent tiered NEPA reviews, Appendix B provides the CEQ 
regulations and guidance relevant to programmatic reviews, and Appendix 
C contains examples of successful programmatic NEPA reviews.\16\

    \15\ 40 CFR 1502.4(d). Tiering is described at 40 CFR 1502.20 
and further defined at 40 CFR 1508.28.
    \16\ Appendices B & C available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/.

III. When to Use a Programmatic and Tiered NEPA Review

    Programmatic NEPA reviews add value and efficiency to the decision-
making process when they inform the scope of decisions and subsequent 
tiered NEPA reviews. Programmatic NEPA reviews can facilitate decisions 
on matters that precede site- or project-specific implementation, such 
as mitigation commitments for subsequent actions, or narrowing of 
future alternatives. They also provide information and analyses that 
can be incorporated by reference in future NEPA reviews. Programmatic 
NEPA documents may help an agency look at a large or multi-faceted 
action without becoming immersed in all the details of future site or 
project-specific proposals. Using programmatic and subsequent tiered 
NEPA reviews effectively will allow for a focused review at the proper 
    A programmatic NEPA review may be appropriate when the action being 
considered falls into one of the four major categories of actions to 
which NEPA can apply:
     Adopting Official Policy. Decision to adopt in a formal 
document an official policy that would result in or substantially alter 
agency programs. The programmatic analysis for such a decision should 
include a road map for future agency actions with defined objectives, 
priorities, rules, or mechanisms to implement objectives. Programmatic 
examples include:
    [cir] Rulemaking at National- or regional-level;
    [cir] Adoption of an agency-wide policy; or
    [cir] Redesign of an existing program.
     Adopting Formal Plans. Decision to adopt formal plans, 
such as documents that guide or prescribe alternative uses of Federal 
resources, upon which future agency actions will be based. For example, 
setting priorities, options, and measures for future resource 
allocation according to resource suitability and availability. Specific 
programmatic examples include:
    [cir] Strategic planning linked to agency resource allocation; or
    [cir] Adoption of an agency plan for a group of related projects.
     Adopting Agency Programs. Decision to proceed with a group 
of concerted actions to implement a specific policy or plan; e.g., an 
organized agenda with defined objectives to be achieved during 
implementation of specified activities. Programmatic examples include:
    [cir] A new agency mission or initiative; or
    [cir] Proposals to substantially redesign existing programs.
     Approving Multiple Actions. Decision to proceed with 
multiple projects that are temporally or spatially

[[Page 50582]]

connected and that will have a series of associated concurrent or 
subsequent decisions. Programmatic examples include:
    [cir] Several similar actions or projects in a region or nationwide 
(e.g., a large scale corridor project); or
    [cir] A suite of ongoing, proposed or reasonably foreseeable 
actions that share a common geography or timing, such as multiple 
activities within a defined boundary (i.e., Federal land or facility).
    Agencies should exercise their judgment and discretion when 
determining whether to prepare a PEA or PEIS.\17\ CEQ recommends 
agencies give particular consideration to preparing a PEA or PEIS when: 
(1) Initiating or revising a national or regional rulemaking, policy, 
or program; (2) adopting a plan for managing a range of resources; or 
(3) making decisions on common elements or aspects of a series or suite 
of closely related projects.

    \17\ National Wildlife Federation v. Appalachian Regional 
Commission, 677 F.2d 883, 888 (D.C. Cir. 1981).

    A programmatic NEPA review may not be a cost effective effort for 
an agency if the effort required to perform the review is substantially 
greater than the time and effort saved in analyzing subsequent 
proposals or if the lifespan of the programmatic NEPA document is 
limited. Agencies usually benefit by asking two questions when 
determining whether to prepare a programmatic NEPA review: (1) Could 
the PEA or PEIS be sufficiently forward looking to contribute to the 
agency's basic planning of an overall program?; and (2) does the PEA or 
PEIS provide the agency the opportunity to avoid `segmenting' the 
overall program from subsequent individual actions and thereby avoid 
unreasonably constricting the scope of environmental regulation? \18\

    \18\ Piedmont Environmental Council v. F.E.R.C., 558 F.3d 304, 
316 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n v. Appalachian 
Reg'l Comm'n, 677 F.2d 883, 888-89 (D.C. Cir. 1981)) (agency can do 
all individual EISs but not if that is an attempt to segment the 
program and thereby limit regulation; if so, a programmatic should 
have been done).

IV. Practical Considerations for Programmatic Reviews and Documents

    This section provides practical guidance to help agencies implement 
a successful programmatic approach. The following points will be 
     Answering the fundamental question of what decision(s) 
does the agency need to make;
     Answering the question of what actions would the agency 
subsequently want to take based on the programmatic NEPA review;
     Determining the purpose and need of the programmatic 
proposal to be analyzed and decided on and its relationship to 
subsequent tiered level proposals and decisions;
     Defining a practical scope for the programmatic review 
that is appropriate to the particular type of broad action being 
     Gathering and analyzing data for broadly scoped actions 
that potentially affect large geographic areas;
     Coordinating among the multiple overlapping jurisdictions 
and agencies that may have a role in assessing or determining whether 
and how a subsequent action may proceed;
     Communicating the scope, content, and purpose of a 
programmatic NEPA analysis in a way the parties involved in the process 
and the public can understand;
     Communicating the opportunities for public engagement in 
the development of the tiered NEPA reviews; and
     Maintaining the relevancy of programmatic NEPA documents 
for subsequent tiered analyses.

A. Determining the Utility and Scope of the Programmatic NEPA Review

    Agencies should carefully consider, as early as practicable, the 
benefits of making the initial broad decisions and the amount of effort 
required to perform the programmatic review to ensure that using the 
programmatic approach facilitates decision-making and merits the 
investment of time and effort. To determine the utility of the PEA or 
PEIS, and the scope of analysis, an agency may find it helpful to 
     What Federal decisions need to be made now and in the 
future regarding the broad Federal action being proposed?
     What are the meaningful decision points \19\ from proposal 
through implementation, and where are the most effective points in that 
continuum to address the potential for effects?

    \19\ 40 CFR 1502.4(b) (``[a]gencies shall prepare statements on 
broad actions so that they are relevant to policy and are timed to 
coincide with meaningful points in agency planning and 

     What are the appropriate geographic limits and time frames 
for this programmatic review?
     Is it necessary to analyze the particular effects of a 
proposed action at a broader scale to facilitate analysis and/or 
decision-making at a more refined (i.e., tiered) level, and is a 
programmatic NEPA review the best way to do this? For example, a 
programmatic NEPA review may serve as an efficient mechanism to 
describe Federal agency efforts to adopt sustainable practices for 
energy efficiency, reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, reduce 
petroleum product use, and increase the use of renewable energy 
including bioenergy, as well as other sustainability practices. The 
definition of ``proposal'' for the purposes of NEPA review should be 
considered when answering this question.\20\

    \20\ 40 CFR 1508.23 The regulation states that a ``proposal'' 
exists at that stage in the development of an action when an agency 
subject to the Act has a goal and is actively preparing to make a 
decision on one or more alternative means of accomplishing that goal 
and the effects can be meaningfully evaluated. It goes on to explain 
that a proposal may exist in fact as well as by agency declaration 
that one exists.

     How long will the programmatic review continue to provide 
a relevant framework for tiering subsequent actions and what factors 
may result in the need to supplement or refresh the review?
1. Purpose and Need
    The purpose and need statement is key to developing the NEPA 
review, as it establishes the scope of the analyses, range of 
reasonable alternatives, and frames the decision to be made. The 
purpose and need for a programmatic review will differ from the purpose 
and need for a project- or site-specific EA or EIS. The purpose and 
need for a PEA or a PEIS needs to be broad enough so as to avoid 
eliminating reasonable alternatives for a tiered EA or EIS and focused 
enough for the agency to conduct a rational analysis of the impacts and 
allow for the public to provide meaningful comment on the programmatic 
action. The purpose and need sets the tone for the scoping process and 
the course for conducting the NEPA review.
2. Scope of Analysis
    The scope consists of the range of actions, the alternatives, and 
the associated impacts to be considered in a NEPA review.\21\ A 
programmatic NEPA review, like project- or site-specific NEPA reviews, 
must address the potentially significant environmental impacts of a 
proposed Federal action. Consequently, the nature of the pending 
decision drives the scope of the environmental analyses and 
documentation. The planning process for the proposed action and the 
development of a programmatic NEPA review should start as early as 
practicable. By starting the planning process early, there should be 
sufficient time for establishing the reasonable scope of actions, 
alternatives, and impacts in the programmatic review,

[[Page 50583]]

and identifying the decisions the programmatic review will support so 
that the level of analysis is clear from the start.

    \21\ 40 CFR 1508.25.

3. The Proposed Action
    In addition to unconnected single actions, there are three types of 
actions set out in 40 CFR 1508.25(a) that may be analyzed in NEPA 
reviews, including those that are programmatic: connected actions, 
cumulative actions, and similar actions.
    Connected actions are those that enable other actions that require 
a Federal action, or where the enabled action cannot or will not 
proceed unless the underlying action is taken; or are interdependent 
parts of a larger action and depend on the larger action for 
justification.\22\ Projects that have independent utility are not 
connected actions.\23\

    \22\ 40 CFR 1508.25(a)(1).
    \23\ 40 CFR 1508.25(a)(1)(iii).

     Example: An agency could analyze a proposed pesticide 
aerial application program for a large metropolitan area in the same 
NEPA document with related actions such as the following: equipment 
purchase and location; pesticide purchase, storage methods and 
location; and loading locations that will be needed. These are examples 
of connected actions that are interdependent parts of the larger 
proposed pesticide aerial application program.
    Cumulative actions are those with impacts which, when viewed with 
other proposed actions, have the potential for cumulatively significant 
impacts and should therefore be discussed collectively in the same NEPA 

    \24\ 40 CFR 1508.25(a)(2).

     Example: A proposed pesticide use program can be analyzed 
in conjunction with a proposed pest eradication program as cumulative 
actions because they have the potential to affect the same resources. 
Note that cumulative effects would have to be considered when 
conducting the NEPA reviews for each of the proposals, whether in 
separate or combined NEPA reviews.
    Similar actions are those which, when viewed with other reasonably 
foreseeable or proposed agency actions, have similarities such as 
timing, impacts, alternatives, or methods of implementation.\25\ A 
programmatic NEPA review provides a platform for evaluating their 
environmental consequences together.

    \25\ 40 CFR 1508.25(a)(3) and 1502.4(c).

     Example: Several energy development programs proposed in a 
region of the country are similar actions if they have similar proposed 
methods of implementation and best practice mitigation measures that 
can be analyzed in the same document.
    Broad Federal actions may be implemented over large geographic 
areas and/or a long time frame. Programmatic NEPA documents must 
include connected and cumulative actions, and the responsible official 
should consider whether it is helpful to include a series or suite of 
similar actions.\26\

    \26\ 40 CFR 1508.25(a).

    Agencies may prepare a single NEPA document to support both 
programmatic and project-specific proposals. Such an approach may be 
appropriate when an agency plans to make a broad program decision, as 
well as decisions to implement one or more specific projects under the 
program. For example, the programmatic approach may address both the 
broad impacts of the proposed broad Federal action and provide 
sufficiently detailed environmental analyses for specific decisions, 
such as determining the locations and designs of one or more proposals 
to implement the broad Federal action. The challenge for agencies is to 
clearly communicate why some environmental aspects are analyzed in 
greater detail--such as the project- or site-specific effects--than 
others--such as the programmatic effects. It is essential to clearly 
state the decisions the agency proposes to make based directly on the 
PEA or PEIS and distinguish the analysis of impacts and alternatives of 
the broad programmatic proposals from the project- or site-specific 
4. The Alternatives
    Alternatives in a programmatic NEPA review are expected to reflect 
the level of the broad Federal action being proposed and would include 
the standard NEPA requirements for alternatives.\27\ In situations 
where there is an existing program, plan or policy, CEQ expects that 
the no-action alternative would typically be the continuation of the 
present course of action until a new program, plan or policy is 

    \27\ 40 CFR 1508.25(b) and 1508.9(3)(b).
    \28\ 46 FR 18026 (addressing in question and answer three what 
is included in a ``no action'' alternative).

    When preparing the programmatic NEPA review for a policy, plan, 
program, or project, alternatives can be considered at the programmatic 
level to support focusing future decisions and eliminating certain 
alternatives from detailed study in subsequent NEPA reviews. By clearly 
articulating the nature of subsequent tiered decisions, agencies can 
craft the alternatives for a programmatic review to focus the scope and 
development of alternatives for the subsequent tiered NEPA documents. 
By articulating the reasoned choice between alternatives, with a 
discussion of why considered alternatives were not chosen, the range of 
alternatives in tiered NEPA reviews can be appropriately narrowed. 
Including a brief written discussion of the reasons alternatives were 
eliminated \29\ should provide the justification for narrowing the 
range of reasonable alternatives to be considered in those tiered NEPA 

    \29\ 40 CFR 1502.14(a).

5. The Impacts
    All NEPA reviews are concerned with three types of reasonably 
foreseeable impacts: direct, indirect, and cumulative.\30\ The contrast 
between a programmatic and a project- or site-specific NEPA review is 
most strongly reflected in how these environmental impacts are 
analyzed. Because impacts in a programmatic NEPA review typically 
concern environmental effects over a large geographic and/or time 
horizon, the depth and detail in programmatic analyses will reflect the 
major broad and general impacts that might result from making broad 
programmatic decisions. Agencies should be clear about the context of 
the decision to be made and how it relates to the intensity of any 
potential impacts.

    \30\ 40 CFR 1508.7 and 1508.8.

    As noted previously, agencies may propose decisions regarding 
standard mitigation protocols and/or operating procedures in a 
programmatic NEPA review and thereby provide a framework and scope for 
the subsequent tiered analysis of environmental impacts. For example, 
proposals for long range energy or transportation infrastructure 
programs are potentially good candidates for PEAs and PEISs that 
include an assessment of how the programs will contribute to or reduce 
water quantity and quality. Discussions of water quantity and quality 
could then be incorporated by reference in tiered NEPA reviews. By 
identifying potential program impacts early, particularly cumulative 
and indirect impacts, programmatic NEPA reviews provide opportunities 
to modify program components and avoid or mitigate adverse impacts when 
developing subsequent proposals.

[[Page 50584]]

B. Collaboration, Public Engagement, and Coordination With Other 
Environmental Reviews

1. Importance of Collaboration and Cooperation
    The types of actions that agencies analyze in programmatic reviews 
may feature some jurisdictional complexity. Impacts on state, tribal 
and private lands, and potentially overlapping authorities between 
agencies and governments with different missions and authorities should 
be considered in programmatic reviews that address resources or actions 
across jurisdictional boundaries. Collaboration and cooperation among 
Federal agencies, tribes, and state and local governments is especially 
critical for successful completion of meaningful programmatic NEPA 
reviews. Scoping early in the process provides agency decision-makers 
with access to other agencies' and governments' expertise and can help 
agencies identify broad scale issues, develop alternatives for 
analysis, identify the appropriate temporal and spatial parameters, and 
determine the appropriate depth of analysis or level of detail for the 
NEPA review.
2. Public Involvement
    Engaging the public is particularly important when developing 
programmatic NEPA reviews in order to ensure agency objectives are 
understood and to clarify how a programmatic review relates to 
subsequent tiered reviews. Effective public engagement also will help 
manage expectations with regard to the purpose and need, the scope of 
the programmatic NEPA review, and the purpose and need and scope of 
subsequent site- and project-specific NEPA reviews. Outreach to 
potentially interested stakeholders should begin as early as possible--
even in advance of formal scoping periods--to afford the public a 
meaningful opportunity to comment on and shape the NEPA review.
    When the public has a chance to see the big picture early it can 
provide fresh perspectives and new ideas before determinations are made 
that will shape the programmatic review as well as subsequent tiered 
proposals. Early outreach also provides an opportunity to develop trust 
and good working relationships that may extend throughout the 
programmatic and subsequent NEPA reviews and continue during the 
implementation of the proposed action.\31\ An agency can encourage 
early public participation by clearly explaining to the public not only 
what the proposed programmatic evaluation is meant to accomplish, but 
also how it relates to future actions, and why the public should get 
involved at the programmatic stage and not wait for any tiered reviews. 
Clarity of approach is essential to avoid the impression that a 
programmatic NEPA review creates a situation whereby the public is too 
early to raise issues in the broader programmatic analysis and then too 
late to raise them in any subsequent tiered analyses.

    \31\ 40 CFR 1501.7; see also Council on Environmental Quality, 
Collaboration in NEPA--A Handbook for NEPA Practitioners (October 
2007), available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/nepapubs/Collaboration_in_NEPA_Oct2007.pdf.

    Stakeholders for a programmatic review may span multiple states and 
large areas. Consequently, public engagement should be well thought 
through to include all the potentially interested Federal and state 
agencies, tribes, local governments, private organizations, and 
individual citizens.\32\

    \32\ For example, a good way to reach out to such a large and 
diverse public is through non-governmental organizations and 
citizen's groups. These organizations frequently know what their 
constituents care about and they may have effective means for 
communicating with those constituents. Agencies are also encouraged 
to use conference calls, web meetings and teleconferences to 
facilitate easy participation by the interested public.

3. Coordination With Other Environmental Reviews
    The purpose and need statement and the proposed action for the 
programmatic NEPA review are critical for determining the compliance 
requirements under other applicable laws and regulations, such as the 
Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and Clean 
Water Act. They are also critical for determining when these other 
reviews must be completed and for developing a strategy to address all 
environmental review and consultation requirements in a coordinated 
manner. Coordinating compliance with other environmental reviews 
supports a broad discussion, facilitates a comprehensive project 
management schedule, provides opportunities to meet data, public 
engagement, and documentation requirements more efficiently, and 
generally promotes greater transparency in Federal decision-making.
    Programmatic NEPA analysis and subsequent tiered NEPA analysis 
support a phased decision-making process that allows certain statutory 
and regulatory compliance to be achieved at the programmatic level. The 
nature of the decision at each phase and the extent to which it may 
constrain the subsequent consideration of alternatives will help 
determine an agency's overall environmental compliance requirements. 
NEPA requires a full evaluation of all specific impacts when the agency 
proposes to make an irreversible and irretrievable commitment of the 
availability of resources to a project. This usually occurs at the 
site-specific level.\33\

    \33\ N. Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. Lujan, 961 F.2d 886 (9th Cir. 

    Provided the PEA or PEIS has sufficient specific data and 
information, it may satisfy other relevant legal requirements for site-
specific future actions, even when there is no irreversible or 
irretrievable commitment of resources at the programmatic level. The 
determination of whether a particular decision in a phased or 
incremental decision-making process represents this level of commitment 
begins with a well formulated description of the proposed action.\34\ 
Agencies should be aware that preparing a programmatic NEPA review is 
not a substitute for compliance with other environmental laws.

    \34\ Friends of Yosemite Valley v. Norton, 348 F. 3d, 789, 801 
(9th Cir. 2003).

    For example, approval of land use plans that establish future 
management goals and objectives for resource management, and the 
measures to achieve those goals and objectives, do not necessarily 
require completion of the Section 106 process under the National 
Historic Preservation Act. In some cases, an agreement with 
stakeholders, such as a programmatic agreement pursuant to sec. 106 of 
the National Historic Preservation Act, demonstrates an agency's 
compliance requirements for phased decisions being analyzed through a 
programmatic NEPA review. For instance, where a Federal agency's broad 
decision will narrow the opportunities for adverse effects in future 
specific proposals, then the agency may initiate the sec. 106 process 
as part of the programmatic review. This will allow the agency to 
complete that process by establishing steps for meeting its 
responsibility as it implements the broad decision and prior to 
subsequent project- and site-specific proposals.
    Agencies should clearly and concisely articulate their intentions 
to defer particular environmental review and consultation requirements 
for consideration until a subsequent project- or site-specific proposal 
is developed. When deferring these requirements, agencies may still 
need to analyze and address related statutory requirements to some 
extent in the programmatic document. For example, if the subsequent 
actions tiered to the

[[Page 50585]]

programmatic document will require authorization under sec. 404 of the 
Clean Water Act prior to construction, agencies should include, after 
consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a discussion of the 
range of alternatives that are necessary to demonstrate compliance with 
the sec. 404(b)(1) Guidelines, and whether there are any practicable 
alternatives that have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem--
and do not have other significant environmental effects--will be made 
at the project-specific or site-specific level.

C. Preparing the Documents

1. Programmatic Environmental Assessment or Programmatic Environmental 
Impact Statement?
    Programmatic approaches are usually associated with EISs and tiered 
documents more typically with proposal-specific EAs. Tiering an EA from 
a PEIS is appropriate when there are no new significant affects or 
considerations and the programmatic NEPA review addresses those 
measures that tiered proposals can rely on to address and reduce the 
significance of the site- or project-specific impacts.
    An agency may prepare a PEA to determine whether an EIS is required 
or when considering a proposal that does not have significant impacts 
at the programmatic level. Following a PEA that results in a finding of 
no significant impact (FONSI), an agency may tier to an EA that results 
in a finding of no significant impact,\35\ or may tier to an EIS when a 
subsequent site- or project- specific proposal has the potential for a 
significant impact on the environment.

    \35\ Northern Plains Resource Council v. Lujan, 874 F.2d 661, 
665-66 (9th Cir. 1989).

    Whether the agency prepares a PEA or a PEIS, that programmatic 
review should explain how the agency intends to use it to complete 
future proposal-specific NEPA reviews. Reasonably available information 
that should be provided both during scoping and in the PEA or PEIS 
includes the expected timing of the tiered review(s) as well as the 
issues, and depth of analysis, it is expected to consider. At the 
project- or site-specific level, it is necessary to consider the 
potential impacts that have not been analyzed and considered in the 
previous programmatic review to which it tiers.
2. Level of Detail in Programmatic NEPA Documents
    A PEA or PEIS addresses the broad environmental consequences 
relevant at the programmatic level. A subsequent tiered EA or EIS will 
address more particularized considerations, but can benefit from the 
programmatic by summarizing and incorporating by reference parts of 
it.\36\ For example, with the Forest Service's programmatic Gypsy Moth 
Supplemental EIS, the PEIS analyzed the human health and ecological 
risk assessments for each pesticide approved for use in the Gypsy Moth 
Eradication Program thereby eliminating the need for such analysis when 
individual spraying projects are proposed. The PEIS analyzed and 
disclosed these risks, and deferred to site or project level analyses 
the specific application of these risk data to how the insecticides 
would be used in a given project (e.g., dose rates, number of 
applications, presence of ``sensitive populations'') and other specific 
issues and concerns raised during scoping.

    \36\ Nevada v. Dep't of Energy, 372 U.S. App. DC 432 (D.C. Cir. 

    The PEA or PEIS must provide sufficient detail to foster informed 
decision-making that reflects broad environmental consequences from a 
wide-ranging federal program.\37\ Site- or project-specific impacts 
need not be fully evaluated at the programmatic level when the decision 
to act on a site development or its equivalent is yet to be made.\38\ 
Alternatives need only be specific enough to make a reasoned choice 
between programmatic directions. The alternatives need not consider 
every specific aspect of a proposal. For example, a programmatic 
analysis of a plan would not require consideration of detailed 
alternatives with respect to each aspect of the plan--otherwise a 
programmatic analysis would be impossible to prepare and would become a 
compilation of a vast series of site specific analyses.\39\

    \37\ Found. On Econ. Trends. v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 143, 159 (D.C. 
Cir. 1985).
    \38\ Citizens for Better Forestry v. U.S. Dep't of Agriculture, 
481 F. Supp. 2d 1059, 1086, (D. Cal. 2007).
    \39\ Greenpeace v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 F. 
Supp. 2d 1248, 1276 (D. Wash. 1999).

    The following considerations may be helpful to determine the scale 
and scope of impacts to be addressed in a programmatic NEPA review:
     First, what are the appropriate scales of the affected 
environment to be analyzed (e.g., watershed, basin, etc.)?
     Second, what environmental impacts are of concern at this 
     Third, what information can be garnered about 
environmental impact criteria (thresholds) to assist in describing when 
those impacts are best addressed in detail?
    Determining the level of detail appropriate to a programmatic 
analysis requires weighing several factors, including the extent of the 
interrelationship among proposed actions, the scale and scope of any 
subsequent decisions, as well as practical considerations of 
feasibility. Resolving these issues will require the expertise of the 
agencies responsible for the proposed action informed by the agencies 
responsible for the potentially impacted resources.\40\

    \40\ Texas Committee on Natural Resources v. Bergland, 573 F. 2d 
201 (5th Cir. 1978).

3. Depth of Impact Analysis in Programmatic NEPA Documents
    The agency is obligated to conduct a meaningful impact analysis in 
accordance with NEPA, and that analysis should be commensurate with the 
nature and extent of potential impacts of the decision being made. A 
programmatic NEPA review should contain sufficient discussion of the 
relevant issues and opposing viewpoints to enable the decision-maker to 
take a ``hard look'' at the environmental effects and make a reasoned 
choice among alternatives.\41\ There should be enough detail to enable 
those who did not have a part in its compilation to understand and 
meaningfully consider the factors involved.\42\

    \41\ Natural Resources Defense Council v. Morton, 458 F.2d 827, 
838 (D.C. Cir. 1972).
    \42\ Baltimore Gas and Electric Co v. NRDC, 462 U.S. 87 (1983).

    A broad (e.g., regional) description may suffice for characterizing 
the affected environment in most programmatic NEPA reviews, so long as 
potentially impacted resources are meaningfully identified and 
evaluated. Impacts can often be discussed in a broad geographic and 
temporal context with particular emphasis on cumulative impacts. Those 
impacts can often be shown in a meaningful way by displaying a range of 
potential effects. The scope and range of impacts may also be more 
qualitative in nature than those found in project- or site-specific 
NEPA reviews.
    It may be more difficult for an agency to analyze the environmental 
impacts in depth when there is no clear indication--no site- or 
project-specific proposal pending--for the level of activity that may 
follow a programmatic decision.\43\ A programmatic NEPA review should 
carefully consider the scope of both the programmatic and the 
subsequent tiered NEPA review. CEQ's 1981 scoping guidance addressed 
this issue and the need to be clear about the type of programmatic NEPA 

    \43\ 40 CFR 1508.23.

    [I]f a proposed program is under review, it is possible that 
site specific actions are not yet proposed. In such a case, these 

[[Page 50586]]

are not addressed in the EIS on the program, but are reserved for a 
later tier of analysis.\44\

    \44\ Council on Environmental Quality, Memorandum for General 
Counsels, NEPA Liaisons, and Participants in Scoping (April 30, 
1981), available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/scope/scoping.htm.

    Thus, the deferred analysis should be identified and the intended 
use of tiering made clear at the outset of scoping, and articulated in 
the programmatic review. Informing participants and the public of the 
expected timing of the tiered review(s), as well as the issues and 
depth of analysis, allows them to concentrate on the issues at hand, 
rather than on those that will be addressed later. Courts have affirmed 
NEPA's requirement that Federal agencies document the environmental 
impacts of proposed broad actions, such as programs, recognizing the 
difficulty in predicting the level of activity that will occur and that 
it may not be possible to analyze thoroughly the environmental effects 
of, and the resource commitments involved in, such a broad proposed 

    \45\ Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390 (1976).

    For example, in the PEIS for the Container Terminal Development 
Plan prepared by the Port of Seattle Marine Planning & Development 
Department, the port determined that it was impossible to know the 
precise demand for container service in the future, and therefore it 
was impossible to predict the precise location, type and timing of 
specific facilities and their environmental impacts. Recognizing the 
uncertainties involved, the PEIS evaluated potential environmental 
impacts and opportunities comprehensively by focusing on a bounded 
range of potential activities and their impacts. The port's Container 
Plan projected a low and high range for container service demand and a 
range of new or improved facilities. The EIS evaluated strategies for 
meeting low and high range demand and the preferred alternative based 
on the plan, providing a flexible market-driven approach in recognition 
of the dynamic nature of the shipping industry and supply of regional 
container facilities.\46\

    \46\ Final Environmental Impact Statement, Container Terminal 
Development Plan, Port of Seattle Marine Planning & Development 
Department 1-17 (October 1991) (on file with the Council on 
Environmental Quality).

D. Mitigation and Monitoring

    Programmatic NEPA reviews provide an opportunity for agencies to 
incorporate comprehensive mitigation planning and monitoring strategies 
into the Federal policymaking process at a broad or strategic, rather 
than specific, or site-by-site, level. These analyses can promote 
sustainability and allow Federal agencies to advance the nation's 
environmental policy as articulated in sec. 101 of NEPA.\47\

    \47\ 42 U.S.C. 4331. See also E.O. 13423, 72 FR 3919 (2007), 
available at ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/regs/Executive_Order_13423.htm.

    By identifying potential adverse impacts early during the broad 
programmatic planning, programmatic NEPA reviews provide a unique 
opportunity to modify aspects of the proposal and subsequent tiered 
proposals to avoid or otherwise mitigate those impacts. A thoughtful 
and broad-based approach to planning for future development can include 
best management practices, standard operating procedures and 
comprehensive mitigation measures that address impacts on a broad 
programmatic scale (e.g., program-, region-, or nation-wide). These can 
expedite the preparation of subsequent project- or site-specific 
proposals by establishing siting, design, operational, or other 
relevant implementation criteria, requirements, and protocols. The 
subsequent tiered NEPA review would then include those measures to 
address potentially significant impacts and focus on the impacts and 
mitigation alternatives available at the project- or site-specific 
level that were not considered in the PEA or PEIS.
    For example, a Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management PEIS 
for coal bed methane development on Federal lands in San Juan National 
Forest established siting and engineering techniques and best 
management practices to reduce the effects of coal bed methane 
development on surface water quality, quantity, and use; established a 
suite of mitigation measures for when pipelines, roads, or power lines 
crossed a stream, wetland, or riparian area; established the 
development of site-specific mitigation plans; and required monitoring 
plans for individual wells that would disturb wetlands or riparian 
areas.\48\ These types of programmatic decisions provide valuable 
information for project proponents (e.g., applicants for Federal 
licenses or rights-of-way) as they design proposals and implementation 
activities and give the public insight into the kinds of protections 
that would be afforded in designing and permitting such facilities.

    \48\ San Juan Citizens Alliance v. Stiles, 654 F.3d 1038 (10th 
Cir. 2011).

    Programmatic NEPA reviews also afford agencies the opportunity to 
develop monitoring programs to address impacts on a broad scale. This 
provides agencies the opportunity to ensure that mitigation commitments 
on the programmatic level are actually being implemented. Further, it 
allows agencies to determine whether the mitigation measures achieved 
the environmental outcomes they were designed to accomplish.\49\

    \49\ Council on Environmental Quality, Memorandum for Heads of 
Federal Departments and Agencies: Appropriate Use of Mitigation and 
Monitoring and Clarifying the Appropriate Use of Mitigated Findings 
of No Significant Impact (January 14, 2011), available at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/current_developments/docs/Mitigation_and_Monitoring_Guidance_14Jan2011.pdf.

    Finally, monitoring is critical when agencies establish adaptive 
management strategies in a programmatic NEPA document to increase their 
flexibility in developing and analyzing subsequent resource management 
proposals. Identifying triggers for changing the course of 
implementation and the associated effects and analyzing those impacts 
at the programmatic level, can allow the agency to change the course of 
implementation without the need for developing supplemental NEPA 
reviews and the associated documentation. Ranges of results inform the 
public and the decision-maker about what parameters are acceptable for 
continued management under the proposed adaptive management regime and 
monitoring provides assurance that the environmental impacts have been 
adequately considered in the programmatic review.

E. Handling New Proposals While Preparing a Programmatic NEPA Review

    Agencies are sometimes reluctant to conduct programmatic NEPA 
reviews because of the risk of delaying ongoing and newly proposed 
actions. The CEQ Regulations enable interim actions to proceed provided 
certain criteria are met.\50\ Typically, proposed actions of relatively 
limited scope or scale that would have local utility may be taken as an 
interim action before completing the programmatic analysis.

    \50\ 40 CFR 1506.1.

    The CEQ Regulations address interim action criteria for site- or 
project-specific EAs or EISs when required PEAs and PEISs are not yet 
completed.\51\ Although the CEQ Regulations address criteria for 
interim actions specifically in the context of PEISs, in those cases 
where part of a proposed action needs to proceed while a PEA is being 
prepared, agencies should use the criteria in the CEQ Regulations. The 
CEQ Regulations recognize and provide for situations where the 
programmatic review is not available when the

[[Page 50587]]

program is at an investment stage or there is a commitment to 
implementation that will limit future alternatives.\52\

    \51\ 40 CFR 1506.1(a) and (c).
    \52\ 40 CFR 1502.4(c)(3).

The CEQ Regulations state, in relevant part that while work on a 
required program environmental impact statement is in progress and 
the action is not covered by an existing program statement, agencies 
shall not undertake in the interim any major Federal action covered 
by the program which may significantly affect the quality of the 
human environment unless such action: Is justified independently of 
the program; is itself accompanied by an adequate environmental 
impact statement; and will not prejudice the ultimate decision on 
the program. Finally, the regulations state that interim action 
prejudices the ultimate decision on the program when it tends to 
determine subsequent development or limit alternatives.\53\

    \53\ 40 CFR 1506.1(c).

    Under the first criterion regarding independent justification, 
agencies may take an interim action that the agency determines could be 
undertaken irrespective of whether or how the program goes forward, 
assuming the other two criteria are met. For example, in cases where an 
agency is obligated by law to carry out a proposed interim action, the 
agency should be able to demonstrate that the action has independent 
    The second criterion makes it clear that an EIS must be prepared 
for a proposed interim action that has the potential for significant 
environmental impacts. Although completion of a PEIS first may be more 
efficient than preparing an adequate EIS for a proposed interim action, 
the agency could complete an adequate EIS for the interim action. In 
cases that don't involve significant impacts, an EA would be sufficient 
to provide adequate NEPA support to meet this second criterion.
    Under the third criterion, agencies may take an interim action when 
they determine that the proposed interim action would not jeopardize 
the objective consideration of reasonable alternatives. Agencies should 
take care to distinguish interim actions from ongoing actions. An 
agency does not need to suspend all operations because it has elected 
to prepare a programmatic NEPA document. For example, in the case of an 
area-wide or site-wide PEIS considering a new proposed operations plan, 
ongoing operations within the area or site may continue and such 
ongoing operations would be considered under the no action alternative 
in the PEIS.

F. The Decision Document

    The decision is documented in a Record of Decision (ROD) following 
preparation of a PEIS or a decision may be based on a FONSI following 
preparation of a PEA. The decision document should clearly explain the 
decision and indicate whether tiered analyses will follow. For example, 
the agency should articulate its intentions with regard to future 
decisions, describe how the agency will use the programmatic NEPA 
document as a basis for tiering future NEPA reviews, and indicate when 
any deferred issues will be addressed.
    The programmatic decision document following a PEA or a PEIS should 
provide the information required in a ROD. It should include a 
description of the alternatives considered, the environmentally 
preferable alternative, economic and technical considerations, agency 
statutory missions, essential considerations of national policy, and 
all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the 
alternative selected that were adopted or, if not, why not. A 
monitoring and enforcement program should also be adopted and 
summarized for any mitigation where that is applicable.\54\

    \54\ 40 CFR 1505.2(c).

V. Subsequent Proposal-Specific NEPA Reviews

A. Deferred Issues

    Certain issues may not be addressed in a PEA or PEIS, but rather 
are discussed fully in subsequent tiered NEPA analysis. These deferred 
issues can include issues that will be addressed in additional tribal 
consultations or further National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 
consultation, Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation, or other 
determinations and consultations. To provide clarity to the public and 
the decision-maker, programmatic NEPA reviews should make clear when 
the analysis of potential environmental impacts will be deferred. When 
preparing a PEA, it is acceptable for an agency to limit its analysis 
to those foreseeable effects resulting from the programmatic decision 
at hand. The programmatic document should clearly explain that, while 
there may be other effects, they do not affect the programmatic 
decision and full review of these issues is being deferred. In this 
case agencies should logically explain why there is no effect on the 
programmatic decision, and also include sufficient information to 
explain where and when deferred issues raised by the public and/or 
regulatory agencies will be addressed.
    The scoping process and subsequent public involvement provide an 
opportunity to clarify the triggers for determining when subsequent 
reviews and opportunities for review and comment will take place.\55\ 
The programmatic document should also, whenever practicable, explain 
how and when the interested parties will be notified of any subsequent 

    \55\ See 40 CFR 1501.7 (scoping), sec. 1501.4 (public 
involvement in EAs), and sec. 1506.6 (public involvement).

B. Tiering NEPA Reviews

    One of the main advantages of a programmatic NEPA review is the 
ability to tier subsequent reviews, such as site- or proposal-specific 
reviews.\56\ Tiering has the advantage of not repeating information 
that has already been considered at the programmatic level so as to 
focus and expedite the preparation of the tiered NEPA review(s). When a 
PEA or PEIS has been prepared and an action is one anticipated in, 
consistent with, and sufficiently explored within the programmatic NEPA 
review, the agency need only summarize the issues discussed in the 
broader statement and incorporate discussion from the broader statement 
by reference and concentrate on the issues specific to the subsequent 
tiered proposal.\57\

    \56\ 40 CFR 1502.20.
    \57\ 40 CFR 1502.20.

    There are times when an analysis at one level is sufficient. For 
example, when the programmatic review has taken the required ``hard 
look'' at the potential environmental impacts, an agency can rely upon 
the analysis provided in the PEA or PEIS.\58\ On the other hand, an 
agency may determine that detailed analysis should be deferred to the 
tiered analysis. The programmatic review must be clear when issues are 
being deferred, and any subsequent tiered documents will need to review 
briefly what level of analysis has been considered and whether it is 
still contemporary.

    \58\ Natural Resources Defense Council v. Morton, 458 F.2d 827, 
838 (D.C. Cir. 1972).

    While CEQ Regulations specifically authorize an agency to tier 
other NEPA reviews to an EIS, there is no barrier to tiering an EIS to 
an EA prepared in accordance with NEPA, the CEQ Regulations, and agency 
NEPA implementing procedures, so long as a sufficient explanation for 
such an approach is proffered. A programmatic NEPA review may defer 
some decisions, and make use of tiering and incorporation by reference, 
and still be

[[Page 50588]]

considered a ``hard look.'' Cases that address ``improper tiering'' 
involve situations where an agency attempts to tier to a non-NEPA 

    \59\ Kern v. BLM, 284 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2002), the Court found 
that, ``tiering to a document that has not itself been subject to 
NEPA review is not permitted, for it circumvents the purpose of 
NEPA.'' In Northcoast Environmental Center v. Glickman, the Court 
found that, ``[a]lthough CEQ procedures allow agencies to 
incorporate by reference certain materials to cut down on the bulk 
of an EIS, they cannot `tier' their site-specific EISs to the 
broader POC program where the program itself has not been subject to 
NEPA procedures.'' Courts have also held that agencies can't 
properly tier when agencies tier to an outdated PEIS (League of 
Wilderness Defenders v. Marquis-Brong, 259 F. Supp. 2d 115, 1122-23 
(D. Or. 2003), or an inadequate or flawed PEIS (Muckleshoot Indian 
Tribe v. U.S. Forest Serv., 177 F.3d 800, 811 (9th Cir. 1999)).

    Confusion over what level of NEPA analysis is required for tiered 
proposals may occur when a programmatic EIS is complete and the site-
specific project will have a significant impact as indicated in the 
programmatic document. When this occurs, the appropriate question is 
not if there is a significant impact from the proposed action, but if 
there is a new significant impact that was not already considered and 
addressed in the programmatic review. If there are no new significant 
impacts, an EA may be appropriate instead of an EIS so long as the 
aspects of the proposed action that involve significant effects have 
not changed since the PEIS, and the agency presents its reasons for 
determining that the effects and potential mitigation measures were 
adequately considered in the PEIS. Consequently, as an agency 
determines the appropriate scope for a PEIS, it should consider the 
potential for significant site- or project-specific impacts and the 
cost/benefit of addressing them programmatically.

C. New Information and Supplementing Documents

    The CEQ Regulations provide a procedural framework for keeping 
environmental analyses current. They require agencies to prepare 
supplements upon determining there is significant new information of 
relevance to the proposed action or its impacts.\60\ The possibility of 
new information arising after an EA or EIS is completed exists 
regardless of whether that NEPA review is a programmatic review.

    \60\ See 40 CFR 1505.3 (monitoring), 1502.9 (supplementation). 
See also Seattle Audubon Society v. Moseley, 798 F. Supp. 1473, (D. 
Wash. 1992) (``[a] federal agency has a continuing duty to gather 
and evaluate new information relevant to the environmental impact of 
its actions, even after release of an EIS'').

    When new information reaches an agency, it should be initially 
screened with respect to the following considerations:
     Does the new information pertain to a programmatic NEPA 
review that was prepared for a now-completed decision-making process?
     Are there any more decisions to be made by the agency that 
would use the original NEPA review to meet all or a portion of the 
agency's NEPA compliance responsibilities for any upcoming decision?
    If there are no further decisions to be made, revising the original 
programmatic NEPA review serves no purpose and is not required. If the 
new information is relevant to a future decision for which the agency 
intends to rely upon the original programmatic NEPA review to meet all 
or a portion of its NEPA compliance responsibilities, then the new 
information must be reviewed in order to determine if it has any 
potential effect on the content of the original programmatic review, 
either in terms of: (a) The accuracy of the previously analyzed impacts 
(direct, indirect or cumulative); or (b) the feasibility of the 
alternatives presented or their comparative analysis. If 
supplementation is not required, agencies should consider documenting 
that determination which, for example, could be done, through a 
memorandum to the record that could be included in the administrative 
record for the programmatic NEPA review.
    The agency is responsible for making a reasoned determination 
whether new information raises significant new circumstances or 
information regarding environmental impacts or involves substantial 
changes in the actions decided upon in the programmatic analysis.\61\ 
When a PEA was used, the determination must consider whether the PEA 
and FONSI are sufficient or whether an EIS is now necessary. If there 
is a need to supplement, a supplemental PEA can address the new 
information and result in a FONSI when the agency's consideration of 
the context and intensity of the effects of the programmatic proposal 
warrant a FONSI.\62\

    \61\ 40 CFR 1502.9.
    \62\ 40 CFR 1508.27.

    When an agency determines there is a need to supplement a NEPA 
review, programmatic NEPA reviews provide alternative ways to complete 
that supplementation. The traditional approach would be to supplement 
the base document, the original PEA or PEIS. Alternatively, if a new 
tiered NEPA review can include consideration of the programmatic 
issues, then the tiered review can also serve as the vehicle for 
supplementing the PEA or PEIS. When the new information's effects are 
limited to potential impacts or alternatives associated with the next 
stage, or project- or site-specific decision, then the tiered analysis 
can address the new information without having to supplement the PEA or 

VI. The Lifespan of a Programmatic NEPA Document

    Agencies must consider and make reasonable efforts to anticipate 
the length of time the programmatic decision and its supporting NEPA 
review will be maintained and used for subsequent tiered reviews. 
Programmatic documents may become outdated depending on the specificity 
and analyses included in them. Agencies should determine the factors 
that may result in the need to supplement or refresh the analysis,\63\ 
establish criteria for evaluating the programmatic document for its use 
as a basis for subsequent proposal-specific NEPA, and communicate this 
to stakeholders. When a programmatic review is projected to have a long 
life span, then the agency should pay close attention to the possible 
effects of new information.

    \63\ 46 FR 18026 (refer to question 32 in CEQ's 40 Most Asked 
Questions). As a rule of thumb, if the proposal has not yet been 
implemented, or if the EIS concerns an ongoing program, EISs that 
are more than 5 years old should be carefully reexamined to 
determine if the criteria in sec. 1502.9 compel preparation of an 
EIS supplement.

VII. Conclusions

    This guidance is intended to assist agencies in preparing PEISs and 
PEAs that address broad, strategic, programmatic level analyses. 
Agencies should consider using PEAs and PEISs whenever appropriate. 
Programmatic NEPA reviews provide an opportunity for considering 
environmental consequences at a broader level and enhance the 
integration of environmental concerns and mitigations into an agency's 
planning procedures. In addition, agencies that are able to clearly 
explain how specific, outstanding, or future actions will be addressed 
in subsequent tiered documents, and how the analyses will be vetted 
publicly, will ensure that the public is informed and can improve the 
quality of participation and analysis agencies receive from the public, 
thereby enhancing decision-making. This guidance also is intended to 
assist NEPA practitioners in realizing the benefits of programmatic 
NEPA reviews. It should be used in conjunction with the regulations and 
guidance previously issued by CEQ (see relevant excerpts in Appendix B) 
and any applicable agency

[[Page 50589]]

NEPA procedures established in accordance with 40 CFR 1507.3.

Appendix A: Programmatic and Tiered Analyses

    Programmatic and tiered analyses differ in their focus and scope. 
The following table indicates the general differences between 
programmatic and subsequent tiered analyses.64

                                                      Subsequent (e.g.,
                                                      project- or site-
                               Programmatic level     specific) tiered
Nature of Action............  Strategic,            Construction,
                               conceptual.           operations, site-
                                                     specific actions.
Level of Decision...........  Policy, program,      Individual
                               planning, suite of    project(s).
                               similar projects.
Alternatives................  Broad, general,       Specific alternative
                               research,             locations, design,
                               technologies,         construction,
                               fiscal measures,      operation, permits,
                               socioeconomic, land   site-specific.
                               use allocations.
Scale of Impacts............  Macroscopic, for      Project level,
                               example, at a         mainly local.
                               national, regional,
                               or landscape level.
Scope of Impacts............  Broad in scale and    Localized and
                               magnitude.            specific.
Time Scale..................  Long- to medium-term  Medium- to short-
                               (e.g., Regulatory).   term (e.g.,
Key Data Sources............  Existing national or  Field work, sample
                               regional              analysis,
                               statistical and       statistical data,
                               trend data, policy    local monitoring
                               and planning          data.
Impacts.....................  Qualitative and       Generally
                               maybe quantitative    quantifiable
                               to the degree         (though not
                               possible.             always).
Decision....................  Broad, strategic      Detailed, project-
                               program, policy, or   or site-specific,
                               plan.                 action-oriented.
Mitigation..................  General, broad suite  Specific, precise
                               of potential          measures applicable
                               measures that could   to a proposed
                               apply and             action.
                               potentially the
                               commitments on when
                               they will apply.

[FR Doc. 2014-20199 Filed 8-22-14; 8:45 am]