The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC or “the Commission”) is amending its protocol for categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, Executive Order 11514, as amended, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA for certain NIGC actions.
On December 4, 2009, the Commission published a draft NEPA manual in the Federal Register (74 FR 63765). The purpose of the manual was to establish the Commission's NEPA-related policies and procedures and to integrate environmental considerations into the Commission's decision-making processes. The draft manual identified one type of major federal action performed under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that triggered NEPA review, specifically, the approval of contracts for the management of Indian gaming facilities pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 2711. In addition to identifying major federal actions applicable to the Commission, the draft manual also established the Commission's NEPA-related roles and responsibilities and created a framework for the preparation of NEPA documentation appropriate for each level of environmental review. The draft manual also identified three categories of actions taken by the NIGC that are categorically excluded from further NEPA review. Categorical exclusions (CATEX) are actions that do not normally require preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), absent extraordinary circumstances.