32 CFR § 989.14 - Environmental assessment.
(a) When a proposed action is one not usually requiring an EIS but is not categorically excluded, the EPF supports the proponent in preparing an EA (40 CFR 1508.9). Every EA must lead to either a FONSI, a decision to prepare an EIS, or no action on the proposal.
(b) Whenever a proposed action usually requires an EIS, the EPF responsible for the EIAP may prepare an EA to definitively determine if an EIS is required based on the analysis of environmental impacts. Alternatively, the EPF may choose to bypass the EA and proceed with preparation of an EIS.
(c) An EA is a written analysis that:
(1) Provides analysis sufficient to determine whether to prepare an EIS or a FONSI.
(2) Aids the Air Force in complying with the NEPA when no EIS is required.
(d) The length of an EA should be as short and concise as possible, while matching the magnitude of the proposal. An EA briefly discusses the need for the proposed action, reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, the affected environment, the environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives (including the “no action” alternative), and a listing of agencies and persons consulted during preparation. The EA should not contain long descriptions or lengthy, detailed data. Rather, incorporate by reference background data to support the concise discussion of the proposal and relevant issues.
(e) The format for the EA may be the same as the EIS. The alternatives section of an EA and an EIS are similar and should follow the alternatives analysis guidance outlined in § 989.8.
(f) The EPF should design the EA to facilitate rapidly transforming the document into an EIS if the environmental analysis reveals a significant impact.
(g) As a finding contained in the draft FONSI, a Finding of No Practicable Alternative (FONPA) must be submitted (five hard copies and an electronic version) to the MAJCOM EPF when the alternative selected could be located in wetlands or floodplains, and must discuss why no other practicable alternative exists to avoid impacts. See AFI 32-7064, Integrated Natural Resources Management.
(h) EAs and accompanying FONSIs that require the Air Force to make Clean Air Act General Conformity Determinations shall be submitted (five hard copies and an electronic version) through the MAJCOM EPF to HQ USAF/A7CI for SAF/IEE coordination. SAF/IEE signs all General Conformity Determinations; SAF/IEI will sign the companion FONSIs after coordination with SAF/IEE, when requested by the MAJCOM (see § 989.30).
(i) In cases potentially involving a high degree of controversy or Air Force-wide concern, the MAJCOM, after consultation with HQ USAF/A7CI, may request HQ USAF ESOHC review and approval of an EA, or HQ USAF may direct the MAJCOM to forward an EA (five hard copies and an electronic version) for HQ USAF ESOHC review and approval.
(j) As a minimum, the following EAs require MAJCOM approval because they involve topics of special importance or interest. Unless directed otherwise by HQ USAF/A7CI, the installation EPF must forward the following types of EAs to the MAJCOM EPF, along with an unsigned draft FONSI: (MAJCOMs can require other EAs to receive MAJCOM approval in addition to those types specified here.)
(1) All EAs on non-Air Force proposals that require an Air Force decision, such as use of Air Force property for highways, space ports, and joint-use proposals.
(2) EAs where mitigation to insignificance is accomplished in lieu of initiating an EIS (§ 989.22(c)).
(k) A few examples of actions that normally require preparation of an EA (except as indicated in the CATEX list) include:
(1) Public land withdrawals of less than 5,000 acres.
(2) Minor mission realignments and aircraft beddowns.
(3) New building construction on base within developed areas.
(4) Minor modifications to Military Operating Areas (MOAs), air-to-ground weapons ranges, and military training routes.
(l) The Air Force will involve other federal agencies, state, Tribal, and local governments, and the public in the preparation of EAs (40 CFR 1501.4(b) and 1506.6). The extent of involvement usually coincides with the magnitude and complexity of the proposed action and its potential environmental effect on the area. For proposed actions described in § 989.15(e)(2), use either the scoping process described in § 989.18 or the public notice process in § 989.24.
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