Orientation to Environmental Reviews

Use this website to learn about the components of the environmental review process.

Overview

An environmental review is the process of reviewing a project and its potential environmental impacts to determine whether it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related laws and authorities. All HUD-assisted projects are required to undergo an environmental review to evaluate environmental impacts. The analysis includes both how the project can affect the environment and how the environment can affect the project, site, and end users.

An environmental review must be performed before any funds, regardless of source, are committed to a project.

Documentation of the environmental review should be maintained in the environmental review record. This record contains the description of all activities that are part of the project and an evaluation of the effects of the project on the human environment and vice versa. This record should be made available for public review.

Part 50 and Part 58

The first step in the environmental review process is determining whether the HUD assistance falls under a Part 50 or Part 58 environmental review. This is usually specified in the Notice of Funding Availability, program regulations, or legislation. Part 58 and Part 50 are the sections of HUD regulations that implement that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Part 50 applies to programs where HUD performs the environmental reviews, and Part 58 applies to programs that allow a responsible entity to perform the environmental reviews.

Part 58

HUD regulations at 24 CFR 58 allow the assumption of authority to perform the environmental reviews by responsible entities, which are units of general local government, such as a town, city, county, tribe, or state. The responsible entity is responsible for the scope and content of the review and making the finding. The certifying officer of the responsible entity, usually the mayor, signs the review and takes legal responsibility for the review.

HUD responsibilities under Part 58 are very limited. HUD will receive the Request for Release of Funds and Certification (HUD form 7015.15) from the responsible entity, accept public comments during the HUD public comment period, and approve the use of HUD assistance through the Authority to Use Grant Funds (HUD form 7015.16). HUD will also periodically conduct in-depth monitoring of responsible entities’ environmental review records.

Part 58 applies when legislation for a program allows local governments to assume authority. (See 58.1(b) or HUD Environmental Regulations for a list of programs authorized under Part 58). Local governments must assume responsibility for grants made directly to the local government when legislation permits. They are encouraged to be responsible for the environmental review in cases where the grants are made to other entities, such as nonprofit organizations and public housing authorities.

Part 50

Part 50 applies when program legislation does not delegate the authority to assume responsibility to the local government, such as FHA housing programs. Part 50 may also apply when the local government was not a direct recipient of the funds and refuses to accept responsibility or when HUD determines the local government does not have capacity to act as responsible entity.

Public Housing Authorities are not units of local government and cannot assume environmental responsibility under Part 58. Public Housing Authorities can work with their unit of local government to complete reviews under Part 58, or directly with HUD to complete reviews under Part 50.

Timing the Review

HUD's regulations at 24 CFR 58.22 prohibit grant recipients and their partners from committing or spending HUD or non-HUD funds on any activity that could have an adverse environmental impact or limit the choice of reasonable alternatives prior to completion of an environment review once a project has become "federal." This prohibition on "choice-limiting actions" prohibits physical activity, including acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction, as well as contracting for or committing to any of these actions.

The restriction on undertaking or committing funds for choice-limiting actions does not apply to undertakings or commitments of non-federal funds before a project participant has applied for HUD funding. A party may begin a project in good faith as a private project and is not precluded from later deciding to apply for federal assistance. However, when the party applies for federal assistance, it will generally need to cease further choice-limiting actions on the project until the environmental review process is complete.

A HUD Memo is also available to provide guidance for grantees on when to use conditional and option contracts for the purchase of real property under 24 CFR 58.

Project Description

A complete and clear project description is the foundation of the environmental review process. The project description should provide location specific information and geographic boundaries, as well as a delineation of all activities included in the overall scope of the project.

The project description should capture the maximum anticipated scope of the proposal, not just a single activity that the money is going toward. It should include all contemplated actions that are a composite part of the project. Activities should be aggregated according to the regulations at 58.32, which says that a responsible entity must group together and evaluate as a single project all individual activities which are related either on the geographical or functional basis, or both, or are logical parts of a composite of contemplated actions.

The project description for the environmental review may not be identical to the description of the project and activities used by the funding program, as the project description in the environmental review may consider activities not financed by HUD.

If the project or environmental review contains information that can be considered sensitive, such as the location of a domestic violence shelter, sacred site, or endangered species habitat, you should omit that information from the publicly reviewable environmental review record.

Level of Review

Once the scope of the project is known you can determine the appropriate level of environmental review. There are five levels of review:

Exempt

Categorically excluded from NEPA, not subject to the related laws and authorities at 58.5 or 50.4 (CENST)

Categorically excluded from NEPA, but subject to the related laws and authorities at 58.5 or 50.4 (CEST)

Environmental assessment (EA) 

  • All other projects (Part 58 and Part 50)
  • Applicable to both projects for activities not covered under a categorical exclusion or exemption
  • Also applies when extraordinary circumstances* exist and elevates the level of review
  • Sample format

Environmental impact statement (EIS)

  • Required when an environmental assessment concludes in a Finding of Significant Impact
  • Applies when the complexity of the project exceeds the scope of an environmental assessment
  • Applies when extraordinary circumstances* exist and elevate the level of review
  • Required when noise levels exceed 75 decibels (unacceptable noise zone)
  • Also required when noise levels are between 65 and 75 decibels (normally unacceptable noise zone) and the project site is largely undeveloped or will encourage incompatible development
  • See 24 CFR 58.37 or 24 CFR 50.42
  • Required for projects involving 2,500 or more housing units or beds

*Extraordinary circumstances are defined in HUD regulations at 24 CFR 58.2(a)(3) as follows:

  • Actions that are unique or without precedent;
  • Actions that are substantially similar to those that normally require an EIS;
  • Actions that are likely to alter existing HUD policy or HUD mandates; or
  • Actions that, due to unusual physical conditions on the site or in the vicinity, have the potential for a significant impact on the environmental or in which the environment could have a significant impact on users of the facility.

Part 58 Flowchart

The Part 58 Flowchart walks through the main steps for each level of environmental review under Part 58.

Download the Flow Chart.

Environmental Analysis (Part 58)

Part 58 reviews may be subject to the requirements of 24 CFR 58.6, 24 CFR 58.5, environmental assessment factors, and the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act. See the chart below for a breakdown of which components are required for each type of review.

 

 

24 CFR 58.6 lists the following requirements for compliance

  • Airport clear zones
  • Coastal barrier resources
  • Flood insurance

24 CFR 58.5 includes the following additional laws and authorities for compliance:

  • Air quality
  • Coastal zone management
  • Endangered species
  • Environmental justice
  • Explosive and flammable facilities
  • Farmlands protection
  • Floodplain management
  • Historic preservation
  • Noise abatement and control
  • Site contamination
  • Sole source aquifers

Environmental assessments require an additional set of components for analysis, including environmental assessment factors and the NEPA analysis. More information, including a suggested format, can be found on the Environmental Assessments page.

Environmental Analysis (Part 50)

Part 50 reviews may be subject to the requirements of 24 CFR 50.4, environmental assessment factors, and the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act. (24 CFR 50.4 combines the laws and authorities listed in 24 CFR 58.5 and 58.6.) See the chart below for a breakdown of which components are required for each type of review.

Environmental Analysis (Part 50)

*Most Part 50 categorically excluded, not subject to 50.4 (CENST) reviews do not require compliance with any laws and authorities, with the following exceptions:

  • Equipment purchase (50.19(b)(13) or 50.19(b)(14)) is subject to compliance with flood insurance requirements.
  • HUD mortgage insurance and loan guarantees as described in 50.19(b)(17) and 50.19(b)(24) are subject to compliance with flood insurance, airport clear zones, and coastal barrier resources requirements.
  • Refinancing of HUD-insured mortgages as specified under 50.19(b)(21) is subject to compliance with flood insurance requirements.

Environmental assessments require an additional set of components for analysis, including environmental assessment factors and the NEPA analysis. More information, including a suggested format, can be found on the Environmental Assessments page.

Finalizing the Review

The following are the steps for finalizing a Part 58 review:

  • Obtain the necessary signatures to complete the review.
  • Publish or post a Notice of Intent to Request a Release of Funds (NOI-RROF)(applies to CEST, EA, and EIS).
  • Publish or post a Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact (Notice of FONSI) if necessary (EA only); this can be combined with the NOI-RROF.
  • Wait for the applicable comment period to elapse (see chart below or 24 CFR 58.45).
  • Submit the Request for Release of Funds form (7015.15) to HUD (CEST, EA, and EIS).
  • HUD will approve the release of funds with an Authority to Release Grant Funds (HUD form 7015.16) after the HUD 15-day public comment period if no valid objections are received.

Type of Notice

Level of Review

Length of Comment Period

Notice of Intent to Request for Release of Funds (NOI-RROF)

CEST, EA, and EIS

7 days when published
Or 10 days when only mailing and posting

Notice of FONSI

EA only

15 days when published
Or 18 days when mailing and posting

Concurrent or combined notices

EA only

15 days when published
Or 18 days when mailing and posting

Part 50 reviews require the appropriate certifications by HUD staff, which may include the preparer, the supervisor, the environmental clearance officer or field environmental officer if the project involves over 200 lots, units or beds, and the program director. HUD staff will inform the project managers when the environmental review is complete.

Revisiting the Review

Environmental review records are living documents, and they may need to be updated even after the environmental review has been completed. The three major reasons for revisiting a review are to record mitigation measures, reevaluate the project, and add another source of funding.

Mitigation Measures
Mitigation measures or conditions for approval are sometimes necessary for a project to be in compliance. The conditions are often implemented after the environmental review is complete and the project is underway. Documentation demonstrating that the mitigation measures have been implemented should be included in the environmental review record.

Reevaluation
Reevaluation of a project is necessary under the following circumstances (24 CFR 58.47):

  • The recipient proposes substantial changes in the nature, magnitude or extent of the project, including adding new activities not anticipated in the original scope of the project;
  • There are new circumstances and environmental conditions which may affect the project or have a bearing on its impact, such as concealed or unexpected conditions discovered during the implementation of the project or activity which is proposed to be continued; or
  • The recipient proposes the selection of an alternative not in the original finding.

The environmental review record should be updated, and the responsible entity should confirm whether the original findings are still valid. If the original findings are no longer valid, a new environmental assessment must be prepared.

Note: Part 50 environmental reviews must be reevaluated and updated when the basis for the original environmental or compliance findings is affected by a major change requiring HUD approval in nature, magnitude or extent of a project and the project is not yet complete. A change only in the amount of financing or mortgage insurance involved does not normally require the environmental review to be reevaluated or updated (24 CFR 50.36).

Supplemental Assistance
Additional HUD funding sources are sometimes added to a project after the environmental review has been completed. For these new sources of HUD funding a CENST environmental review can be performed if the original environmental review and the additional sources of funding all fall under Part 58 and the same responsible entity is performing the review (see 24 CFR 58.35(b)(7)). Otherwise, a new CEST environmental review or environmental assessment must be completed.

If new funding sources are added prior to the completion of the environmental review, and all of the funding sources are under the same part (50 or 58), then the new funding can be included in the existing environmental review.