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NEPA / SEPA Guidance

Making sure that a project has completed all the necessary environmental procedures is a challenge. Chapter 400 of the Environmental Manual (EM) describes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and explain other environmental policy.

The information on this page is designed for a technical audience.

New Requirements

  • FHWA issues order on climate change directing agencies to consider extreme weather risks in all planning, operations, policies and programs.  New guidance and tools will be posted on the FHWA Climate Change web page. (Jan 2015).
  • CEQ Issues FINAL Guidance on Programmatic NEPA ReviewsThe 50 page guidance document is intended to assist agencies prepare programmatic EA/EIS level documents describing "broad, landscape-scale analysis of proposals that affect the resources they manage".  (December 2014).
  • CEQ Updates Draft Guidance on NEPA Greenhouse Gas Evaluations.  Agencies should consider climate impact of any action the would increase greenhouse gas emissions by  25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.  (December 2014).
  • FTA issues final guidance for early ROW acquisition in the Federal Register.  (November 2014). 
  • DOT issues final guidance for combining the FEIS and ROD.  The guidance requires early coordination with lead agency and legal sufficiency review.  (November 2014).
  • FHWA and FTA have created new CEs in accordance with Section 1318 of MAP-21.  The new CEs will become effective on November 5, 2014.  Some of the new CEs have criteria that must be met before they can be applied as described in the Federal Register.  The NEPA/SEPA Compliance Program will be developing guidance as information becomes available.  Click here for a quick reference table. (October 2014).
  • SSA MOU between FHWA and EPA -- This MOU clarifies the process for EPA's review of projects within designated sole source aquifers.  It also expands the list of types of projects that do not have potential to contaminate a sole source aquifer and therefore do not require review - see Appendix A of the agreement.  (September 2014).
  • NEPA/SEPA documentation GIS layer available on WSDOT Environmental Workbench -- useful for identifying if any larger environmental documents were previously completed in your project area.  The information primarily includes only EA and EIS documents.  Contact your Region Environmental Coordinator for access. (September 2014).
  • EPA issues policy on EJ for working with Federally recognized Tribes  and Plan EJ 2014 outlining the agency's approach to implementing EO 12898.  The documents  describe the agency's increased emphasis on community involvement and consideration of potential environmental impacts on overburdened communities. (August 2014)
  • FHWA has updated their guidance for obtaining approval for de minimis use and Temporary Occupancy for CE level projects. A process flow chart and forms are available on the Section 4(f) web page. (July 2014).
  • NCHRP issues study to help agencies manage legal risk -- NCHRP Project 20-24, Task 71, Phase 2:  Expediting NEPA Decisions and Other Practitioner Strategies for Addressing High Risk Issues in Project Delivery.  (June 2014)  
  • Effective techniques for quality environmental documents -- AASHTO report provides examples of well written environmental documents.  The report features three WSDOT projects. (April 2014)
  • Regulator Performance Penalties -- FHWA and FTA issue guidance on MAP-21 Financial Penalty Provision.  The guidance requires reviewing agencies to track deadlines and impose penalties based on receipt of a "complete" applications. (April 2014) 
  • New CEs -- FHWA and FTA final ruling to include two new CEs for highway or transit projects within existing operational ROW or that receive limited federal funding. (Feb 2014) 

Scope your Project

During the Project Scoping phase, WSDOT staff define projects by entering information into the WSDOT Project Summary Database. This process defines the purpose and need for the project, identifies and evaluates alternatives, and documents the overall scope and cost of the project. This information allows WSDOT and the legislature to prioritize projects for funding.

For scoping permits, go to the Federal, State, and Local Permits web pages. 

Documenting Environmental Impacts

Each category of NEPA and SEPA has its own compliance path.  The links below detail how to assess impacts, ensure document quality, and comply with procedural requirements.  

Process Guidance

  • CE Programmatic Agreement with FHWA (pdf 118 kb) (3/13/13)
  • ECS/SEPA Checklist ShareDot database - This database allows WSDOT staff to complete SEPA documents and NEPA CEs and DCEs. This database is available to WSDOT employees only and can be accessed from the WSDOT Intranet Environment page.
  • FTA adopts new rule defining CE/DCE projects - 23 CFR 771.117 replaced by 23 CFR 771.118
  • FHWA and FTA have issued a joint final rule to revise emergency CEs under 23 CFR 771.117 (c) (9). FTA Emergency CEs (pdf 58 kb).
  • NEPA documentation roles and responsibilities (pdf 149 kb) this table describes WSDOT Region, WSDOT HQ, and FHWA roles and responsibilities during the NEPA documentation process.
  • QA/QC Guidance and Templates (pdf 2.16 mb) -- design quality into your process.
  • EA Process -- this web page gives step by step guidance for writing an EA form Project Initiation to FONSI.
  • EIS Process -- this web page gives step by step guidance for writing an EIS from Project Initiation to ROD.
  • SEPA Process -- this web page gives step by step guidance for state environmental documentation procedures.
  • Environmental Document Distribution Table (pdf 31 kb)- table listing the required number and type of copies for distribution.

Assess Impacts

Finalize and Approve