HHS General Administration Manual Part 30 Environmental Protection

(as of February 25, 2000)

SUBJECT: General Environmental Review Procedures

30-30-00-- Overview
30-30-10-- Summary Description
30-30-20-- Environmental Review
30-30-30-- Environmental Statements
30-30-40-- Intergovernmental Consultation and Document Review

30-30-00 -- Overview

Certain environmental statutes and Executive Orders require an environmental review of proposed Federal actions to determine whether such actions will have environmental effects.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe overall the steps which Department officials must take in conducting environmental reviews of specific proposed actions. Within these general steps, the individual environmental acts differ significantly with respect to public involvement, intergovernmental consultation, and documentation required. The chapters at 30-40 and 30-50 following (entitled Natural Asset Review and NEPA Review) discuss these specific requirements in greater detail.

Note: The procedures and requirements in chapters 30-40 and 30-50 take precedence over the general statements in this chapter and must be consulted before determining the steps that must be taken with regard to a specific action. The discussion in this chapter generally does not apply to chapters 30-60 to 30-90.

30-30-10 -- Summary Description

The following is a summary description of the general types and sequence of activities which Departmental officials should carry out in reviewing specific proposed actions under this Part.

  1. Determine that a proposed activity constitutes an action as defined under Section 30-00-30 (Definitions) that is subject to an environmental statute or Executive Order.

  2. Determine whether the proposed action is categorically excluded from all environmental review requirements. If it is excluded, no further environmental review is necessary.

  3. For proposed actions not categorically excluded, conduct an environmental review in accordance with applicable program environmental review procedures to determine whether the proposed action will cause an environmental effect under one or more of the environmental statutes or Executive Orders.

  4. Determine whether it is necessary to prepare an environmental document, e.g., an environmental assessment, and if necessary, an environmental impact statement under NEPA. Circulate the environmental document among the public, Federal, State and local agencies, and other interested parties, as appropriate.

  5. Carry out the requirements for public involvement and intergovernmental consultation as required under the applicable environmental statutes or Executive Orders, including any necessary approvals.

  6. Prepare the necessary environmental documentation and proceed with the program decision-making process.

30-30-20 -- Environmental Review

  1. General. OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs must perform an environmental review for each proposed action not categorically excluded in accordance with the OPDIV's/ STAFFDIV's environmental procedures. The purpose of an environmental review is to answer the following general questions: (Individual environmental acts differ with respect to the specific scope and methodology required in conducting an environmental review.)

    1. Which environmental statutes or Executive Orders apply to the proposed action?

    2. Will a proposed action have an environmental effect under any of the environmental statutes or Executive Orders, as defined in regulation or by court interpretation?

    3. Should the HHS OPDIV/STAFFDIV prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, given the environmental statutes and Executive Orders involved and the kinds and degree of environmental effects anticipated?

  2. Agreements with Other Agencies. When two or more agencies are engaged in the same action, a lead agency agreement provides one agency with the authority to conduct the environmental review. These agreements determine the content and type of statement and specify which Federal agency will prepare it. The agreement includes a schedule for the preparation and circulation of the document, as well as an assignment of important tasks among the agencies involved. Lead agency agreements may be signed with other agencies for individual actions or for a particular type of action.

  3. Non-Federal Agencies. Whenever an HHS program requests or permits a non-Federal agency to perform an environmental review, the program shall outline the type of information required, perform an independent evaluation, and assume responsibility for the scope and content of the material.

30-30-30 -- Environmental Documents

  1. On the basis of the environmental review, OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs shall determine what type of environmental document to prepare. Under NEPA, either an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact or an environmental impact statement would generally be required. Environmental impact statements are prepared in two stages: draft and final. A final statement includes a consideration of comments submitted by persons or organizations reviewing the draft statement. Under some laws covered by this Part, an environmental assessment may also have to be prepared in draft for review and comment before being finalized.

    The chapters at 30-40 and 30-50 following (Natural Asset Review and NEPA Review) discuss these different requirements in greater detail and must be consulted to ascertain the specific requirements of NEPA and each of the related statutes and Executive Orders.

  2. Description.

    1. Environmental Impact Statements. An environmental impact statement is a detailed written statement on, i) the environmental impact of the proposed action, ii)any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided, iii) alternatives to the proposed action, iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man=s environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity and v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented. Draft environmental impact statements shall not exhibit biases in favor of the proposed action. A final statement may include a recommendation with a rationale for a preferred action (see chapter 30-50 for correct NEPA terminology and process).

    2. Environmental Assessments. An environmental assessment is generally a concise document which provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact. It shall include, in detail, the environmental impact of reasonable alternatives. OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs generally can use an environmental assessment in order to satisfy any review, consultation, and public notice requirements of the applicable environmental statutes and Executive Orders and to otherwise inform individuals and organizations who may be interested in or affected by the proposed action (see chapter 30-50 for correct NEPA terminology and process).

  3. Alternatives. Environmental impact statements must explore and evaluate reasonable alternatives to the proposed action in terms of their environmental consequences, benefits and costs, and contribution to the underlying purpose or goal. Discussion of alternatives must be sufficiently in-depth to permit a meaningful comparison of alternative courses of action.

    Environmental impact statements shall consider the following categories of alternatives, as appropriate:

    1. No Action By Any Organization. This alternative serves as a baseline against which to measure the environmental consequences, costs, and benefits of the proposed action and other alternatives.

    2. Action Alternatives. One or more alternative courses of action directed at achieving the underlying purpose or goal. The environmental impact statement cannot automatically exclude actions:

      1. Outside the expertise or jurisdiction of Departmental organizations, e.g., examining the possible use of other real properties other than that proposed for transfer by HHS; or

      2. Which only partially achieve an underlying goal or objective, e.g., funding a health care facility at a lower capacity for patient care. However, action alternatives considered must be reasonably available, practicable, and be related to the underlying purpose or goal. An environmental impact statement must include all reasonable alternatives.

    3. Alternative Safeguards. These are alternative actions which could mitigate the adverse environmental consequences of one or more of the action alternatives.

    4. Delayed Action Alternative. This alternative is to postpone or delay a proposed action in order to conduct more research or for other reasons.

    5. Alternative Uses. When a proposed action would affect a scarce or valuable resource (e.g., prime agricultural farmland), the potential alternative uses of the resource must be identified so that they may be compared with the value of the proposed action.

30-30-40 -- Intergovernmental Consultation and Document Review

OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs are responsible for meeting the various requirements under environmental statutes and Executive Orders for intergovernmental consultation and public involvement. These requirements differ significantly. OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs must refer to the more detailed descriptions in 30-40 and 30-50 and should consult an environmental officer for guidance.

As required, OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs shall circulate draft environmental impact statements for review and comment, and otherwise make them available to the public upon request to the extent such statements are not protected from disclosure by existing law applicable to the agency=s operation. Statements should be circulated to the Federal agency responsible for administering the applicable environmental act, involved non-Federal agencies at the State or local level, and interested public persons or groups within the geographic area of the environment affected. The review period is generally no less than 30 days for a draft environmental assessment and no less than 60 days for a draft environmental impact statement. Whenever a draft environmental impact statement is significantly revised because of comments received or because the nature or scope of the proposed action changes significantly, OPDIVs/STAFFDIVs shall prepare a new draft environmental impact statement for circulation. Circulation of certain portions of the document is not necessary when it involves the following:

  1. National Security. Circulation of classified sections of environmental documents is subject to regulations pertaining to matters of national security.

  2. Trade Secrets. Circulation of sections of environmental documents that disclose a trade secret is subject to 18 U.S.C. '1905 or 21 U.S.C.' 331(j) governing the protection and disclosure of trade secrets.

Last Revised: October 17, 2003