ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is intended to assist the Surface Transportation Board (Board) and the public in identifying and assessing the potential environmental consequences of a proposed action before a decision on the proposed action is made. The Board's Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) is responsible for ensuring that the Board complies with NEPA and related environmental statutes. The first stage of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is scoping, which began when OEA issued its June 19, 2019 Notice of Intent in the Federal Register. Scoping is an open process for determining the range of actions, alternatives and potential environmental impacts or issues to be addressed in an EIS. As part of its scoping process, OEA also published a Draft Scope of Study for the EIS with the Notice of Intent for public review and comment. Additionally, OEA is consulting with federal, state and local agencies and held six scoping meetings in the project area to provide further opportunities for public involvement and input during the scoping process. For more information on the public scoping meetings see the Public Involvement page.
Following the scoping public comment period, OEA considered comments received and results of analysis conducted, and issued a Final Scope of Study in the Federal Register on December 13, 2019. The Final Scope of Study identified the three alternatives carried forward for detailed analysis in the EIS.
OEA continued to consult with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies in preparing the Draft EIS. The Board issued the Draft EIS on October 30, 2020 for public review and comment, as announced on the Board’s website and in a Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register. On December 9, 2020, OEA decided to extend the public comment period for the Draft EIS through January 28, 2021. On January 28, 2021, OEA decided to extend the public comment period for the Draft EIS for an additional 15 days. The public comment period closed on February 12, 2021. The Draft EIS analyzes and compares the potential environmental impacts of construction and operation of the proposed rail line and alternatives, including the No-Action Alternative. The Draft EIS also includes OEA’s preliminary recommendations for mitigating environmental impacts, as well as the Coalition’s voluntary mitigation measures.
OEA invited all interested parties to review and comment on the Draft EIS, which is located on the Documents & Links page. OEA provided information on how to comment on the Draft EIS, including how to participate in an online meeting.
OEA has prepared a Final EIS that considers all comments on the Draft EIS and sets forth OEA’s final recommendations to the Board, including recommended environmental mitigation measures. The Final EIS is available on the Documents & Links page. The Board will now issue a final decision that will consider the Draft EIS, the Final EIS, and the entire environmental record. In this final decision, the Board will decide whether to authorize the proposed rail line, deny it, or authorize it with conditions, including conditions to address environmental impacts.