|5.1 Environmental Assessments Introduction|
|Introduction | When to Prepare an EA | Length of an EA | Format and Content of an EA | Public Involvement | Administrative Process of Review of EAs|
CEQ originally created the Environmental Assessment (EA) primarily to be used when you do not have enough information to decide whether the proposal may have significant impacts. From its original purpose, however, an EA has evolved into a useful planning tool. An EA must lead to a FONSI or an NOI and an EIS. Therefore, if you find through the use of an EA that a proposal does have the potential for significant impact, you must prepare an EIS (unless section 5.4(f)(3) applies). On the other hand, if you find that the proposal or any of the alternatives analyzed in the EA would not significantly affect the environment, prepare a FONSI.
The stated purposes of an EA (CEQ 1508.9) are to:
(a) briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis
for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a FONSI (described above).
However, an EA can be prepared at any time to assist in planning and decision-making (1501.3(b)).
Determining whether an EIS is needed is only one of the purposes of an EA. In fact, today it is clear that the most common rationale for preparing an EA is to aid in an agency's compliance with NEPA, particularly section 102(2)(E), when an EIS may not be necessary. Section 102(2)(E) requires an agency to study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources.