(October 3, 2017) -- EPA is developing a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) to help expedite WIFIA project approval. On September 20, EPA published a scoping notice seeking initial comments as work to draft the PEA continues.
Before EPA closes any loans under WIFIA, it must ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Many WIFIA-related projects, such as those involving pipe replacement, or work within the footprint of existing infrastructure, will likely be categorially exempted from NEPA. Some projects, like new treatment plants, will need full blown environmental impact statements (EIS) and records of decision under NEPA.
But EPA believes there are potentially many WIFIA projects that will fall somewhere in between – not specifically exempted, but also not requiring a full impact review. NEPA allows the development of a PEA to essentially pre-approve projects that match a certain description. EPA is hoping to describe the range of typical WIFIA projects that may be eligible for coverage under this PEA in an effort to expedite review.
Based on input from EPA, NACWA does not plan to engage at this scoping stage. The Association will review the draft PEA – that will be released for public comment most likely later this year – and determine whether any comments are appropriate at that time.