23 CFR § 771.119 - Environmental assessments.
(1) The applicant must prepare an EA in consultation with the Administration for each action that is not a CE and does not clearly require the preparation of an EIS, or where the Administration concludes an EA would assist in determining the need for an EIS.
(2) When FTA or the applicant, as joint lead agency, select a contractor to prepare the EA, then the contractor must execute an FTA conflict of interest disclosure statement. The statement must be maintained in the FTA Regional Office and with the applicant. The contractor's scope of work for the preparation of the EA should not be finalized until the early coordination activities or scoping process found in paragraph (b) of this section is completed (including FTA approval, in consultation with the applicant, of the scope of the EA content).
(3) When FRA or the applicant, as joint lead agency, select a contractor to prepare the EA, then the contractor must execute an FRA conflict of interest disclosure statement. In the absence of an applicant, FRA may require private project sponsors to provide a third-party contractor to prepare the EA as described in 771.109(e).
(b) For actions that require an EA, the applicant, in consultation with the Administration, must, at the earliest appropriate time, begin consultation with interested agencies and others to advise them of the scope of the project and to achieve the following objectives: Determine which aspects of the proposed action have potential for social, economic, or environmental impact; identify alternatives and measures that might mitigate adverse environmental impacts; and identify other environmental review and consultation requirements that should be performed concurrently with the EA. The applicant must accomplish this through early coordination activities or through a scoping process. The applicant must summarize the public involvement process and include the results of agency coordination in the EA.
(d) The applicant does not need to circulate the EA for comment, but the document must be made available for public inspection at the applicant's office and at the appropriate Administration field offices or, for FRA at Headquarters, for 30 days and in accordance with paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section. The applicant must send the notice of availability of the EA, which briefly describes the action and its impacts, to the affected units of Federal, Tribal, State and local government. The applicant must also send notice to the State intergovernmental review contacts established under Executive Order 12372. To minimize hardcopy requests and printing costs, the Administration encourages the use of project websites or other publicly accessible electronic means to make the EA available.
(e) When a public hearing is held as part of the environmental review process for an action, the EA must be available at the public hearing and for a minimum of 15 days in advance of the public hearing. The applicant must publish a notice of the public hearing in local newspapers that announces the availability of the EA and where it may be obtained or reviewed. Any comments must be submitted in writing to the applicant or the Administration during the 30-day availability period of the EA unless the Administration determines, for good cause, that a different period is warranted. Public hearing requirements are as described in § 771.111.
(f) When a public hearing is not held, the applicant must place a notice in a newspaper(s) similar to a public hearing notice and at a similar stage of development of the action, advising the public of the availability of the EA and where information concerning the action may be obtained. The notice must invite comments from all interested parties. Any comments must be submitted in writing to the applicant or the Administration during the 30-day availability period of the EA unless the Administration determines, for good cause, that a different period is warranted.
(g) If no significant impacts are identified, the applicant must furnish the Administration a copy of the revised EA, as appropriate; the public hearing transcript, where applicable; copies of any comments received and responses thereto; and recommend a FONSI. The EA should also document compliance, to the extent possible, with all applicable environmental laws and executive orders, or provide reasonable assurance that their requirements can be met.
(h) When the FHWA expects to issue a FONSI for an action described in § 771.115(a), copies of the EA must be made available for public review (including the affected units of government) for a minimum of 30 days before the FHWA makes its final decision (See 40 CFR 1501.4(e)(2)). This public availability must be announced by a notice similar to a public hearing notice.