22 CFR § 161.7 - Categories of actions.

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§ 161.7 Categories of actions.

Departmental officers shall review each major Departmental action having a potentially significant effect on the quality of the environment in the United States. The need to prepare formal environmental documents will depend on the scope of the action and the context and intensity of any environmental effects expected if the action is implemented. Departmental actions can generally be grouped into three categories, as follows:

(a) Actions normally requiring environmental impact statements. Any Departmental action deemed to have a “significant effect upon the quality of the human environment” of the United States requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement. The criteria to be used in determining significance are set forth in § 1508.27 of the CEQ Regulations. The Department has reviewed representative actions and has found no common pattern which would enable it to specify actions normally requiring environmental impact statements. If developments later enable such designations to be made the Department will publish a description of proposed actions for such designation in the Federal Register.

(b) Actions categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare environmental impact statements. Categorical exclusion, as defined in § 1508.4 of the CEQ Regulations, provides for exclusion from environmental review of specified actions which have as a class been found to have no significant impact on the quality of the human environment. Neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is ordinarily required for such actions. Departmental actions categorically excluded from the requirements of these regulations include the following:

(1) Routine conduct of Departmental and overseas political and economic functions, including reporting on political and economic developments, trends and activities, communicating to host governments United States Government views, maintaining contact with foreign officials and individuals, and facilitating trade opportunities abroad and U.S. business expansion in foreign markets;

(2) Provision of consular services - visas, passports and citizenship, and special consular services, such as issuing or reviewing passports and visas, taking legal depositions, notarizing absentee ballots and other documents and delivering retirement checks, social security payments and veterans benefits;

(3) Conduct of routine administrative functions, such as budget and finance, personnel and general services. This includes routine administrative procurements (e.g., general supplies, negotiating leases for office space or staff housing, ordering supplies and arranging for customs clearances); financial transactions, including salaries, expenses and grants; routine management, formulation and allocation of the Department's budget at all levels (this does not exempt the preparation of environmental documents for proposals included in the Department's budget when required); and personnel actions (e.g., promotions, hirings, and counseling American and host country employees who work for the Department of State);

(4) Preparing for and participating in conferences, workshops or meetings for information exchange, data collection or research or study activities; and

(5) Document and information exchanges.

Even though an action may be categorically excluded from the need for an environmental impact statement, if information developed during the planning for the actions indicates the possibility that the particular action in question may nonetheless cause significant environmental effects, an environmental assessment shall be prepared to evaluate those effects. Based upon the assessment, a determination will be made whether to prepare an environmental impact statement. The Department may designate additional actions for categorical exclusion by publishing a listing of actions proposed for such designation in the Federal Register.

(c) Actions normally requiring environmental assessments. An environmental assessment shall provide the basis of the determination whether an environmental impact statement is required. A Departmental action shall require the preparation of an environmental assessment if the action is not one known normally to require an environmental impact statement and is not categorically excluded. Departmental actions normally included in this category are actions for which the Department has lead-agency responsibility and which may significantly affect the human environment of the United States, such as those actions involving:

(1) [Reserved]

(2) Wetlands, floodplains, endangered species and national historical, archeological and recreational sites (see also specific requirements for environmental review and consultation in § 161.11 of these regulations); and

(3) Ocean dumping, control of toxic substances, disposal and storage of wastes and radioactive substances.

(d) Emergencies and other exceptional circumstances. Not every Departmental activity will be considered a major Federal action for the purposes of these regulations. Several limited classes of action which might ordinarily be subject to these regulations will not be considered major Federal actions requiring the preparation of an environmental impact statement. Among them are the following:

(1) Actions taken in emergency circumstances and disaster and emergency relief activities as defined in § 1506.11 of the CEQ Regulations (in such circumstances the responsible action officer should consult with the Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Issues which shall consult with the Council on Environmental Quality about appropriate alternative arrangements);

(2) Mandatory actions required under any treaty or international agreement to which the United States Government is a party, or required by the decisions of international organizations or authorities in which the United States is a member or participant except when the United States has substantial discretion over implementation of such requirements;

(3) Payment of contributions, either assessed or voluntary, to any international organization of which the United States is a member pursuant to the obligation of a treaty or other international agreement or which is not for the purpose of carrying out a specifically identifiable action which would affect the environment; and

(4) Support for or acquiescence in (by affirmative vote or agreement to consensus) an activity or expenditure of funds by an international organization where the United States has no unilateral right to control such expenditures.

[45 FR 59554, Sept. 10, 1980, as amended at 85 FR 32296, May 29, 2020]

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