§ 1940.319Completing environmental assessments for Class I actions.
(a) As stated in this subpart, a main purpose of Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-21, is to provide a mechanism for reviewing actions with normally minimal impacts and for documenting a finding of no significant impact, as well as compliance determinations for other applicable environmental laws, regulations and policies. The second major purpose is to serve as a screening tool for identifying those Class I actions which have more than minimal impacts and which, therefore, require a more detailed environmental review.
(b) The approach to reviewing a Class I action under the assessment format of Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-21 is exactly the same as for a Class II action. The preparer (as defined in §§ 1940.302(i) and 1940.316 of this subpart) must become familiar with the elements of the action, the nature of the environment to be affected, the relationship to any other Federal actions or related nonfederal actions, and the applicable environmental laws and regulations.
(c) The data submission requirements placed on the applicant for a Class I action are not as extensive as for a Class II action. The requirements are limited to completing the face of Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-20, as well as categories (1), (2), (13), (15), (16), and (17) of Item 1b of the FMI, whenver a previously completed environmental analysis covering these categories is not available. Should it later be determined that the magnitude of the Class I action's impact warrants a more detailed assessment, the applicant will be required to submit the remaining items of the data request. Additionally, the circumstances under which FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 does not require the submission of Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-20 by an applicant whose proposed action requires a Class I assessment are specified in § 1940.317(f) of this subpart.
(d) The preparer must ensure that the data received from the applicant is complete, consistent, signed and dated before initiating the assessment. If it is not, the applicant will be required to make the necessary changes and clarifications. The reviewer must also ensure that the application properly meets the definition of a Class I action. Phased or segmented projects, as discussed in § 1940.317(d) of this subpart, will be identified and the elements and the size of the entire project used to classify the action.
(e) An important element of this assessment is to determine if the action affects an environmental resource which is the subject of a special Federal consultation or coordination requirement. Such resources are listed in the assessment format, Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-21, and include wetlands, floodplains, and historic properties, for example. If one of the listed resources is to be affected, the preparer must demonstrate the required compliance by accomplishing the review and coordination requirements for that resource. Documentation of the steps taken and coordination achieved will be attached. However, if more than one listed resource is to be affected, this will be viewed as the action having more than minimal impacts and the environmental assessment format for a Class II action will be initiated except if the action under review is an application for a Housing Preservation Grant.
(f) Similarly in completing item 3, General Impacts of Form FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 1940-21, the assessment format for a Class II action must be initiated if more than one category of impacts cannot be checked as minimal. If there is a single category which needs analysis, this can be accomplished by attaching an appropriate exhibit addressing the questions and issues for that impact, as specified in the environmental assessment format for a Class II action. See § 1940.311(b)(1) of this subpart for when an attached discussion of water quality impacts is mandatory.
(g) The comments of State, regional, and local agencies obtained through applicable permit reviews or the implementation of Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, will be incorported into the assessment, if this review applies to the action. The receipt of negative comments of an environmental nature will warrant the initiation of a more detailed assessment under the format for a Class II action (exhibit H of this subpart). Also, the issue of controversy must be addressed, and if the action is controversial for environmental reasons, the environmental assessment format for a Class II action (exhibit H of this subpart) will be completed. However, if the action is the subject of isolated environmental complaints or any questions or concerns that focus on a single impact, air quality, for example, the analysis of such complaints or questions can be handled under the assessment format for a Class I action. This analysis will then be provided by the approving official to the party or parties which raised the matter with FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354. When several potential impacts are questioned, however, the more detailed assessment format will be accomplished to address these questions.
(h) The potential cumulative impacts of this action, particularly as it relates to other FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 actions recently approved in the area or planned, will be analyzed. If the cumulative impact is not minimal and, for example, cumulatively exceeds the criteria and thresholds discussed in paragraphs (e), (f) and (g) of this section, the environmental assessment format for a Class II action will be completed. The actions of other Federal agencies and related nonfederal actions must also be assessed on this basis. When there is a Federal action involved, the environmental review conducted by that Agency will be requested and, if it sufficiently addresses the cumulative impact, can be utilized by the preparer as the FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354 assessment, assuming the impacts are not significant. (See § 1940.324 of this subpart.) If the other Agency is doing or planning an EIS, the preparer will inform that Agency of our action and request to be a cooperating agency.
(i) The preparer will have the responsibility of initiating the assessment format for a Class II action (exhibit H of this subpart) whenever the need is identified. This should be done as early as possible in the review process. The preparer should not complete the assessment for a Class I action when it is obvious that the assessment format for a Class II action will be needed. The preparer will simply start the more detailed assessment and inform the applicant of the additional data requirements.
(j) Exhibit I will be completed by the approval official in the same instances for a Class I assessment as for a Class II assessment. However, public notification of FmHA or its successor agency under Public Law 103-354's finding of no significant environmental impact will not be required for a Class I assessment. Also, special provisions for completing a Class I assessment for an action that is normally categorically excluded but loses its classification as an exclusion are contained in § 1940.317(g) of this subpart. With the exception of the two preceding sentences, all other procedural requirements of the assessment process, such as the timing of the assessment and the limitations on the applicant's actions, apply to a Class I assessment.
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