49 CFR 520.23 - Preparation of draft environmental impact statements.
(a) Planning stage. (1) When a DEIS is to be prepared, the responsible official shall promptly initiate its preparation and develop a schedule in consultation with the Associate Administrator for Planning and Evaluation, to assure completion prior to the first significant point of decision in the program or project development process.
(2) The environmental impacts of proposed activities should be initially assessed concurrently with the initial technical and economic studies.
(3) Section 102(2)(A) of NEPA requires each Federal agency to utilize a “systematic, interdisciplinary approach” to plans and programs affecting the environment. To assure that all environmental impacts are identified and assessed, all relevant disciplines should be represented. If the necessary disciplines are not represented on the staff of the applicant or NHTSA, it is appropriate to use professional services available in other Federal, State or local agencies, universities, or consulting firms. The use of the interdisciplinary approach should not be limited to the environmental statement. This approach should also be used in the early planning stages to help assure a systematic evaluation of reasonable alternative courses of action and their potential social, economic, and environmental consequences.
(b) Form and content requirements. Attachment 1 of this order prescribes the form and content requirements to be followed for each draft and final environmental impact statement. The DEIS must fulfill and satisfy, to the fullest extent possible at the time it is prepared, the requirements established for final statements.
(c) Lead agency. CEQ guidelines provide that when more than one Federal agency (1) directly sponsors an action, or is directly involved in an action through funding, licenses, or permits, or (2) is involved in a group of actions directly related to each other because of their functional interdependence and geographical proximity, consideration should be given to preparing one statement for all the Federal actions involved. Agencies in such cases should consider the designation of a single “lead agency” to assume supervisory responsibility for preparation of a joint statement. Where a lead agency prepares the statement, the other agencies involved should provide assistance with respect to their areas of jurisdiction and expertise. The statement should contain an evaluation of the full range of Federal actions involved, should reflect the views of all participating agencies, and should be prepared before major or irreversible actions have been taken by any of the participating agencies. Some relevant factors in determining an appropriate lead agency are: The time sequence in which the agencies become involved, the magnitude of their respective involvement, and their relative expertise with respect to the project's environmental effects. Questions concerning “lead agency” decisions should be raised with CEQ through TES. For projects serving and primarily involving land owned by or under the jurisdiction of another Federal agency, that agency may be the appropriate lead agency.
(d) Applicants. Where the agency requests an applicant for financial assistance or other agency approval to submit an environmental assessment, the responsible official will (1) assist the applicant by outlining the information required, and (2) in all cases make his own evaluation of the environmental issues involved and take responsibility for the scope and content of draft and final environmental statements.