49 CFR 260.35 - Environmental assessment.
(a) The provision of financial assistance by the Administrator under this Part is subject to a variety of environmental and historic preservation statutes and implementing regulations including the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) ( 42 U.S.C. 4332et seq.), Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act ( 49 U.S.C. 303(c)), the National Historic Preservation Act ( 16 U.S.C. 470(f)), the Coastal Zone Management Act ( 16 U.S.C. 1451), and the Endangered Species Act ( 16 U.S.C. 1531). Appropriate environmental/historic preservation documentation must be completed and approved by the Administrator prior to a decision by the Administrator on the applicant's financial assistance request. FRA's “Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts” (“FRA's Environmental Procedures”) ( 65 FR 28545 (May 26, 1999)) or any replacement environmental review procedures that the FRA may later issue and the NEPA regulation of the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ Regulation”) ( 40 CFR Part 1500) will govern the FRA's compliance with applicable environmental/historic preservation review requirements.
(b) The Administrator, in cooperation with the applicant, has the responsibility to manage the preparation of the appropriate environmental document. The role of the applicant will be determined by the Administrator in accordance with the CEQ Regulation and Environmental Procedures.
(c) Depending on the type, size and potential environmental impact of the project for which the applicant is seeking financial assistance, FRA will need to determine whether the project is categorically excluded from detailed environmental review under FRA's Environmental Procedures and, if not, to prepare or have prepared an Environmental Assessment leading to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a Finding of No Significant Impact. At the discretion of the Administrator, Applicants may be required to prepare and submit an environmental assessment of the proposed project or to submit adequate documentation to support a finding that the project is categorically excluded from detailed environmental review. If the applicant is a public agency that has statewide jurisdiction or is a local unit of government acting through a statewide agency, and meets the requirements of section 102(2)(D) of NEPA, the applicant may be requested to prepare the EIS and other environmental documents under the Administrator's guidance.
(d) Applicants are strongly urged to consult with the Associate Administrator for Railroad Development at the earliest possible stage in project development in order to assure that the environmental/historic preservation review process can be completed in a timely manner.
(e) Applicants may not initiate any activities that would have an adverse environmental impact or limit the choice of reasonable alternatives in advance of the completion of the environmental review process. This does not preclude development by applicants of plans or designs or performance of other work necessary to support the application for financial assistance.