Do FAA Environmental Clearances Apply to Your Project?

Courtesy of Kutchins & Groh

Did you know?
Any airport that is subject to FAA Grant Assurances and Obligations must receive environmental clearance from the FAA for any development project prior to its initiation. There are three types of environmental clearances: Categorical Exclusions (CATEX), Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

What is a CATEX?
A CATEX refers to a group of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and won’t require a more detailed analysis (those would be an EA or EIS – see below). The FAA may issue a Simple CATEX or may require the submittal of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Form.

Simple CATEX vs. CATEX SOP
For a Simple CATEX, the FAA’s Environmental Protection Specialist may request a written explanation of the project, including the funding source, and an exhibit illustrating its location on the airfield. An airport may choose to directly coordinate with the FAA’s Environmental Protection Specialist and its FAA Program Manager.

A CATEX SOP Form requires coordination with federal, state and local resource agencies and detailed documentation of all correspondence with these agencies, as well as exhibits illustrating the location of any affected resources. The preparation of a CATEX SOP Form is more complicated than a Simple CATEX and often requires the assistance of a consultant.

What if I can’t get a CATEX?
EA: If a CATEX can’t be obtained, an Environmental Assessment may be required instead. An EA is a comprehensive process undertaken by an airport which evaluates the possible positive or negative impacts that a project may have on the physical environment and certain social and economic factors.

EIS: If it is determined from the EA that significant impacts will result, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be required. An EIS must be prepared by a federal agency. It assists public officials in making informed decisions regarding environmental consequences and the alternatives available.

So, what’s right for my airport?
To figure out which type of clearance is appropriate for your project, it’s best to coordinate with the FAA’s Environmental Protection Specialist for your region and your FAA Program Manager prior to initiation.

If you have any more questions or would like more information, feel free to reach out to Chris Groh, Kutchins & Groh, at [email protected]