7 CFR 1794.15 - Limitations on actions during the NEPA process.
(a) General. Until RUS concludes its environmental review process, the applicant shall take no action concerning the proposed action which would have an adverse environmental impact or limit the choice of reasonable alternatives being considered in the environmental review process (40 CFR 1506.1). The RUS environmental review process is concluded when:
(1) A categorical exclusion determination has been made for proposals listed under §§ 1794.21 and 1794.22.
(2) Applicant notices announcing the RUS FONSI determination have been published for proposals listed under §§ 1794.23 and 1794.24.
(3) Applicant notices announcing the RUS Record of Decision have been published for proposals listed under § 1794.25.
(b) Electric program. In determining which applicant activities related to a proposed action can proceed prior to completion of the environmental review process, RUS must determine, among other matters that:
(1) The activity shall not have an adverse environmental impact and shall not preclude the search for other alternatives. For example, purchase of water rights, optioning or transfer of land title, or continued use of land as historically employed will not have an adverse environmental impact. However, site preparation or construction at or near the proposed site (e.g. rail spur) or development of a related facility (e.g. opening a captive mine) normally will have an adverse environmental impact.
(2) Expenditures are minimal. To be minimal, the expenditure must not exceed the amount of loss which the applicant could absorb without jeopardizing the Government's security interest in the event the proposed action is not approved by the Administrator, and must not compromise the objectivity of RUS environmental review. Not withstanding other considerations, expenditures equivalent to up to 10 percent of the proposed action's cost normally will not compromise RUS objectivity. Expenditures for the purpose of producing documentation required for RUS environmental review are excluded from this limitation.