The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is proposing to amend its categorical exclusions (CATEXs) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) for certain BIA actions and is seeking comment. The BIA is requesting comment on whether to revise or delete any current CATEXs or add any new CATEXs.
The NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their decisions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) encourages Federal agencies to use CATEXs to protect the environment more efficiently by: (a) Reducing the resources spent analyzing proposals which generally do not have potentially significant environmental impacts, and (b) focusing resources on proposals that may have significant environmental impacts. The appropriate use of CATEXs allow the NEPA review to be concluded without preparing either an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) (40 CFR 1500.4(p) and § 1508.4).
The CEQ regulations implementing NEPA define CATEXs as a category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment, and for which, therefore, neither an EA nor an EIS is required. (40 CFR 1508.4). The CEQ regulations encourage the use of CATEXs to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays. A CATEX is a form of NEPA compliance; it is not an exemption from NEPA, but an exemption from requirements to prepare an EIS. Agency procedures must consider “extraordinary circumstances,” in which case a normally excluded action may have a significant effect and require preparation of an EA or EIS.