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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Safety: NEPA Policy
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National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

(adapted from Manual 230 - Updated: 12/5/2005)


This program is administered by the ARS National Program Staff.

NEPA was established January 1, 1970, to ensure Federal agencies consider the potential impacts of their actions on the environment.  As required under NEPA, USDA and ARS published regulations to supplement the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidelines for NEPA implementation.  The CEQ regulations appear at 40 CFR 1500, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1504, 1505, 1506, 1507, 1508; USDA's at 7 CFR 1b; and ARS' at 7 CFR 520.

These regulations provide managers and decision makers a means to evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental consequences of proposed actions at the earliest possible time (i.e., before irreversible commitment of resources).  They also specify how to document efforts to identify, evaluate, quantify, and consider both the positive and negative environmental effects of proposed actions.

It is ARS policy to fully comply with the NEPA law and applicable regulations.  Whenever possible, preference should be given to avoiding or mitigating adverse environmental effects. 

Within REE, separate procedures for evaluating the environmental effects of research programs and construction projects have been established.  Procedures for conducting environmental reviews of research programs/projects are described in the ARS CRIS Documentation Manual, while procedures for Area and Headquarters' construction projects are described in the NEPA Construction Projects process.  The AD is responsible for making and documenting all NEPA decisions.  The AD has signatory authority on all final NEPA documentation.  The AD will establish a process to ensure that appropriate staff having information relevant to the final determination makes analysis and preparation of NEPA documentation.  The specific process should be consistent with the management structure of the Area.

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Last Modified: 3/12/2010
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