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  • Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and recommendations expressed in the group area discussions are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Government, the Department of Transportation, or the Federal Highway Administration.
Edited: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Kurt Flynn

Should EA/EIS always include cumulative impacts analys?

The answer might surprise you.

According to the document "Consideration of Cumulative Impacts in EPA Review of NEPA Doucments (EPA, 5/99), the answer is 'No'.  "NEPA documents [EA/EIS] do not necessarialy require cumulative impact assessments in every case". (Section 3, 2nd question)

Is anyone aware of this and have you ever not prepared a cumulative assessment because it wasnt necessary?
2011-05-07 08:17:14
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Steve Gurganus
Just scope the cumulative analysis in the context of (1) directs, (2) indirects, and (3) any notable past, present, or identified future actions of any party.  Inventory the context (past, present, future actions by all parties) in the ICE study area.  If no notable directs (or the directs are avoided/minimized/mitigated); & no or few indirects; then likely minimal contribution of the project to the cumulative impacts of all of those other past, present, & future actions -- it's primarily a documentation task.  Where any of 1, 2, or 3 or notable and may incrementally or cumulatively rise to the level of significant, then a harder look and more thorough disclosure would be in order.  My  2 cents.
5/13/2011 9:53 AM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Just because I don't have funding, do you think my mortgage requirement is going to go away?  The issues need to be addressed to stay in compliance with NEPA.  It's up to you to use common sense as to how and how much you address them.
5/12/2011 1:59 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Yes, and add a little common sense to the recipe and viola...
5/12/2011 1:57 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
F. Yates Oppermann
I agree with the concern about what do we "have" to do or "should" do, but the limitations of funding and time, and diminished returns dictate that we not spend enormous resources analysing cumulative effects for everything.  But i think there are ways we can look at cumulative effects efficiently and effectively, furst by remembering that cumulative effects include not just transportation projects, but all actions.  To that end, if we can forcast trends (people will litter and probably little more in the future), then we can probably address cumulative effects pretty efficiently without spending vasts amounts of time and resources.  And you could even take on area cumulative effect assessments as PEL projects.
5/12/2011 9:50 AM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Robert Deaton
This goes back to the old question of what do I "have" to do, and what "should" I do?   In the case of cumulative effects, if, during construction, a worker throws a cigarette butt on the ground, it would be hard to refute that even this is a cumulative effect (those things seem to last a long time!), even though it's "minimal".
With the ever growing number of agencies commenting and reviewing and following their own guidance for issuing permits and blessing projects, one would be foolish and less than open, to completely omit any statement at all on cumulative effects.   In the case of a turn lane being added with the cigarette butt on the ground next to it, a simple "cumulative effects stemming from this project are anticipated to be minimal.", would at least let the reader/reviewer know that this issue wasn't forgotten and perhaps received a short common-sense acknowledgment.
5/12/2011 9:43 AM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Agreed.  This is a common mistake.  Your level of documentation or size or complexity of your project does not "make requirements go away."  In other words, consisderation for all federal regulations, guidance, policy, whatever, needs to be given.  The level of documentation is what changes, not the scope of the impacts analysis and what is and is not considered.  If I had a pothole (literally one pothole) project that required digging up a section of roadway and replacing it and I knew that a cemetery had been covered up by the roadway years and years ago, do you think I'm just going to write up a programmatic CE, file it, and be on my way?  I don't think so.

FHWA, Texas
5/11/2011 1:42 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
The CEQ guidance talks about targetted Cummulatie Effects evaluations that are relevant to the given project under review.  How do we use this to make the cummulative effects discussions relevant and avoid extended costs and discussions for cumulative effects to all resources?
5/11/2011 10:16 AM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Steve in Pittsburgh
I do not believe that the guidance is pointing to the directive that all projects regardless of their NEPA level (Class I EIS; Class II CEE; Class III EA) require a secondary and cumulative impact analysis.  This subject needs to be addressed as "present or not present" based upon the scope of the action, and the project setting.  It should not always be required, anymore than a wetland delineation is always required or an environmental justice assessment is always required.  Here is the FHWA link too for the secondary and cumulative impact assessments:
5/10/2011 3:12 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Lamar Smith
When referring to or using any guidance it is important that we understand its proper context. CEQ guidance for example applies generally to all federal agencies. FHWA guidance applies to FHWA only, but may be consulted by others for general information.  The same is true of EPA's guidance. It does not generally require adherence of other federal agencies but certainly could include useful information.  The EPA guidance referred to here was / is intended to provide information and guidance to EPA staff in the performance of their 309 reviews of EISs. It does not apply generally to others.  But, if EPA follows the guidance in reviewing our EISs, it makes sense to know what it says.
5/10/2011 2:25 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
With all due respect to all existing and non-existance guidance, the reality is that if you have direct and indirect impacts you need to consider the cumulative effects of the project.
5/9/2011 2:51 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Marc Brenman
I would agree that a cumulative impact analysis is almost always necessary.  The point, however, is that such an analysis is often incorrectly left out or done wrong.  From a social equity point of view, the cumulative impact analysis should be broad as to geography and time. Additive environmental justice adverse effects should be included, including those beyond the transportation sphere, to include those stemming from other forms of infrastructure.  The key is the people in the area, and how they are affected by what is going on around and to them, from a wide variety of sources.  
5/9/2011 2:31 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
State DOT
For a CE, I would agree that analysis of cumulative impacts is not necessary.  For an EA or EIS, I would say that a cumulative impacts analysis IS necesary, although the scope and complexity of it can vary from qualitative to highly quantitative.  Generally speaking, if you will have direct or indirect impacts to a resource, then you need to look at potential cumulative impacts to that resource.  As stated in the CEQ's 2005 Guidance on Consideration of Past Actions in Cumulative Effects Analysis:
Proposed actions of limited scope typically do not require as comprehensive an assessment of cumulative impacts as proposed actions that have significant enviromnmental impacts over a large area. Proposed actions that are typically finalized with a finding of no significant impact usually involve only a limited cumulative impact assessment to confirm that the effects of the proposed action do not reach a point of significant environmental impacts. Except in extraordinary circumstances, proposed actions that are categorically excluded from NEPA analysis do not involve cumulative impact analyses.

CEQ guidance is much more relevant than EPA guidance when it comes to cumulative impacts.  Case law shows that those who lowball or ignore cumulative effects are asking for trouble.
5/9/2011 1:54 PM
Posted: 4/24/2012 8:40 AM
Monica Meade
Here is the link to the document on line:
5/9/2011 1:35 PM