NEPA for BCAP

WHAT IS NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a United States environmental law that established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and established procedural requirements for all federal government agencies to prepare Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). The law has since been applied to any project, federal, state or local, that involves federal funding, work performed by the federal government, or permits issued by a federal agency.


WHAT NEPA COMPLIANCE IS NECESSARY FOR MY BCAP PROJECT AREA PROPOSAL?

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program has completed a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) examining broad scale socio-economic and environmental impacts of program implementation as well as specific impacts associated with planting perennial switchgrass forage sorghum and hybrid poplar and willow as a feedstock. Proposals using feedstocks addressed in the BCAP PEIS will only need additional review if the level of controversy or scope is unique, as determined by FSA. Feedstocks not addressed in the BCAP EIS, including but not limited to miscanthus, arundo donax, and algae, will require a site-specific EA to be in compliance with NEPA. In accordance with NEPA, if the findings of the EA are inconclusive, an EIS will be necessary.


HOW LONG DOES THE NEPA PROCESS TAKE?

If a site-specific Environmental Assessment (EA) has been completed for the proposed BCAP project area it must be submitted to FSA for review. FSA will review the document to ensure that it provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to issue a finding of no significant impact or prepare an environmental impact statement:

  • If FSA determines the document satisfies its NEPA requirement it will advertise the availability of the draft EA (DEA) for a 30 day public comment period, review the comments and If the EA finds no significant impact, the Agency will sign a Finding of No Significant Impact and the proposal can then be implemented; OR
  • If the findings are inconclusive or the comments received on the DEA identify new substantial issues or are controversial in nature, a site-specific EIS would be indicated.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FUNDING AND CREATING THE EA?

The responsibility to fund and develop the EA is on the Project Sponsor, although the document will be reviewed and published by Farm Service Agency. To ensure the EA is sufficient and the standards of the Agency are met it is recommended that you engage FSA early in the NEPA process so they can work with the Project Sponsor and/or the contractor hired by the Project Sponsor. If you have any questions or plan to develop an EA, please contact:

Sheryl Ivanov, Farm and Conservation Specialist; sheryl.ivanov@usda.gov; 202.401.9145


WHERE DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT NEPA COMPLIANCE IN FSA AND FIND EXAMPLES OF BCAP EAs?

Much more information is located on FSA’s Environmental and Cultural Compliance website, including examples of BCAP site-specific EAs.