49 CFR § 1105.10 - Board procedures.

§ 1105.10 Board procedures.

(a) Environmental Impact Statements—(1) Prefiling Notice. Where an environmental impact statement is required or contemplated, the prospective applicant must provide the Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) with written notice of its forthcoming proposal at least 6 months prior to filing its application.

(2) Notice and scope of EIS. When an Environmental Impact Statement is prepared for a proposed action, the Board will publish in the Federal Register a notice of its intent to prepare an EIS, with a description of the proposed action and a request for written comments on the scope of the EIS. Where appropriate, the scoping process may include a meeting open to interested parties and the public. After considering the comments, the Board will publish a notice of the final scope of the EIS. If the Environmental Impact Statement is to be prepared in cooperation with other agencies, this notice will also indicate which agencies will be responsible for the various parts of the Statement.

(3) Notice of availability. The Board will serve copies of both the draft Environmental Impact Statement (or an appropriate summary) and the full final Environmental Impact Statement (or an appropriate summary) on all parties to the proceeding and on appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies. A notice that these documents are available to the public will be published (normally by the Environmental Protection Agency) in the Federal Register. (Interested persons may obtain copies of the documents by contacting OEA.)

(4) Comments. The notice of availability of the draft Environmental Impact Statement will establish the time for submitting written comments, which will normally be 45 days following service of the document. When the Board decides to hold an oral hearing on the merits of a proposal, the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be made available to the public in advance, normally at least 15 days prior to the portion of the hearing relating to the environmental issues. The draft EIS will discuss relevant environmental and historic preservation issues. The final Environmental Impact Statement will discuss the comments received and any changes made in response to them.

(5) Supplements. An Environmental Impact Statement may be supplemented where necessary and appropriate to address substantial changes in the proposed action or significant new and relevant circumstances or information. If so, the notice and comment procedures outlined above will be followed to the extent practical.

(b) Environmental Assessments. In preparing an Environmental Assessment, OEA will verify and independently analyze the Environmental Report and/or Historic Report and related material submitted by an applicant pursuant to sections 1105.7 and 1105.8. The Environmental Assessment will discuss relevant environmental and historic preservation issues. OEA will serve copies of the Environmental Assessment on all parties to the proceeding and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, and will announce its availability to the public through a notice in the Federal Register. In the case of abandonment applications processed under 49 U.S.C. 10903, the availability of the Environmental Assessment must be announced in the applicant's Notice of Intent filed under 49 CFR 1152.21. The deadline for submission of comments on the Environmental Assessment will generally be within 30 days of its service (15 days in the case of a notice of abandonment under 49 CFR 1152.50). The comments received will be addressed in the Board's decision. A supplemental Environmental Assessment may be issued where appropriate.

(c) Waivers.

(1) The provisions of paragraphs (a)(1) or (a)(4) of this section or any STB-established time frames in paragraph (b) of this section may be waived or modified where appropriate.

(2) Requests for waiver of § 1105.10(a)(1) must describe as completely as possible the anticipated environmental effects of the proposed action, and the timing of the proposed action, and show that all or part of the six month lead period is not appropriate.

(d) Third-Party Consultants. Applicants may utilize independent third-party consultants to prepare any necessary environmental documentation, if approved by OEA. The environmental reporting requirements that would otherwise apply will be waived if a railroad hires a consultant, OEA approves the scope of the consultant's work, and the consultant works under OEA's supervision. In such a case, the consultant acts on behalf of the Board, working under OEA's direction to collect the needed environmental information and compile it into a draft EA or draft EIS, which is then submitted to OEA for its review, verification, and approval. We encourage the use of third-party consultants.

(e) Service of Environmental Pleadings. Agencies and interested parties sending material on environmental and historic preservation issues directly to the Board should send copies to the applicant. Copies of Board communications to third-parties involving environmental and historic preservation issues also will be sent to the applicant where appropriate.

(f) Consideration in decisionmaking. The environmental documentation (generally an EA or an EIS) and the comments and responses thereto concerning environmental, historic preservation, Coastal Zone Management Act, and endangered species issues will be part of the record considered by the Board in the proceeding involved. The Board will decide what, if any, environmental or historic preservation conditions to impose upon the authority it issues based on the environmental record and its substantive responsibilities under the Interstate Commerce Act. The Board will withhold a decision, stay the effective date of an exemption, or impose appropriate conditions upon any authority granted, when an environmental or historic preservation issue has not yet been resolved.

(g) Finding of No Significant Impact. In all exemption cases, if no environmental or historic preservation issues are raised by any party or identified by OEA in its independent investigation, the Board will issue a separate decision making a Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) to show that it has formally considered the environmental record.

[56 FR 36105, July 31, 1991, as amended at 56 FR 49821, Oct. 1, 1991;64 FR 53268, Oct. 1, 1999; 81 FR 8854, Feb. 23, 2016; 83 FR 15078, Apr. 9, 2018]