Environmental Review Toolkit
NEPA and Project Development

NEPA Documentation

Memorandum: INFORMATION: Additional Flexibilities in Categorical Exclusions - FHWA compiled a list of activities that may be undergoing more detailed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processing than is required by law. This memorandum includes a list of activities that can normally be processed as CEs under 23 C.F.R. 771.117(c).

Categorical Exclusion (CE)

Categorical exclusion means a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment…and…for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.

-- 40 CFR 1508.4

Categorical exclusions (CEs) are actions which meet the definition contained in 40 CFR 1508.4, and, based on past experience with similar actions, do not involve significant environmental impacts. They are actions which: do not induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use for the area, do not require the relocation of significant numbers of people; do not have a significant impact on any natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resource; do not involve significant air, noise, or water quality impacts; do not have significant impacts on travel patterns; and do not otherwise, either individually or cumulatively, have any significant environmental impacts.

-- 23 CFR 771.117(a)

Any action which normally would be classified as a CE but could involve unusual circumstances will require the Administration, in cooperation with the applicant, to conduct appropriate environmental studies to determine if the CE classification is proper. Such unusual circumstances include:

  1. Significant environmental impacts;
  2. Substantial controversy on environmental grounds;
  3. Significant impact on properties protected by Section 4(f) of the DOT Act or section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; or
  4. Inconsistencies with any Federal, State, or local law, requirement or administrative determination relating to the environmental aspects of the action.
-- 23 CFR 771.117(b)

A specific list of CEs that normally do not require any NEPA documentation or FHWA approval is set forth in 23 CFR 771.117(c). Other projects, pursuant to 23 CFR 771.117(d), may also qualify as CEs if appropriately analyzed, documented, and approved by FHWA at the Division level.

For additional information see:

23 CFR 771.117
FHWA Memorandum - Categorical Exclusion Documentation and Approval

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