Welcome to the environmental section of the Utilities Programs website. This website contains reference material that will assist agency staff and applicants or borrowers meet the agency's environmental review and compliance requirements.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable environmental statutes, regulations and Executive Orders, the agency is required to integrate and consider the potential environmental effects of its actions, i.e. providing federal financial assistance, on the "human environment" prior to taking that action. NEPA and agency policy is to "use all practicable means"...to restore and enhance the quality of the human environment and avoid or minimize adverse affects of those actions on the human environment" ...this is accomplished by evaluating the environmental consequences of applicant proposals and to ensure that environmental values be given appropriate consideration in agency decision-making along with economic and technical factors within the agency's mission.
In 1978, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) promulgated (40 CFR Part 1500) to implement the procedural provisions of NEPA. These regulations directed federal agencies to adopt procedures to supplement the CEQ regulations by defining categories of agency actions and developing agency specific implementing procedures; the Utilities Programs' NEPA procedures are codified at 7 CFR 1794, Rural Utilities Service Environmental Policies and Procedures.
To further the intent of NEPA and the CEQ procedures, the Utilities Programs incorporates all of its environmental review responsibilities, including compliance reviews under Section 106, National Historic Preservation Act, and its implementing regulations (36 CFR Part 800) under its NEPA process.
CEQ has published a Citizen Guide describing how NEPA is implemented, and "how people outside the Federal government - individual citizens, private sector applicants, members of organized groups, or representatives of Tribal, State, or local government agencies - can better participate in the assessment of environmental impacts conducted by federal agencies." If interested you may download that document here.
The agency's environmental compliance responsibilities for its Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) are administered through USDA, Rural Development State Offices; the Electric and Telecommunication Programs are administered in the National Office located in Washington, DC. Each Rural Development State Office has a State Environmental Coordinator (SEC) who provides oversight and direction for implementing their respective state's environmental review requirements. For specific questions related to a WEP proposal in a particular state, we encourage you to contact that state's SEC.
For all project proposals that propose construction activities, the agency normally require applicants to prepare Environmental Reports concurrently with their Preliminary Engineering Reports or other planning/design documents. This requirement meets the CEQ's intent whereby agencies "integrate the NEPA process with other planning at the earliest possible time to insure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values". The agency has outlined the types of information that need to be provided in applicants' Environmental Reports; these requirements are published in a series of Bulletins.
If you have any questions, please contact Mark S. Plank, Director, Engineering and Environmental Staff at 202-720-1649 or firstname.lastname@example.org..