[WEC-Env] Guidance on scoping, purpose and need statements
rob at friends.org
Wed Oct 17 23:53:15 PDT 2007
Dear WEC friends on technical committees,
Ed suggested looking at the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
website for guidance on scoping and specifically on purpose and need
I didn¹t find much from EPA -- nor from the Federal transit Administration
(FTA) but I did get useful resources from the Council on Environmental
Quality (CEQ), which is charged with implementing the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA), and from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
CEQ re Scoping:
FHWA re Purpose and Need:
The last link is quite good, and something I have returned to many times. If
nothing else, read the first paragraph, which is some of the best stuff I
have seen coming from a federal agency!
> The purpose and need section is in many ways the most important chapter of an
> environmental impact statement (EIS). It establishes why the agency is
> proposing to spend large amounts of taxpayers' money while at the same time
> causing significant environmental impacts. A clear, well-justified purpose and
> need section explains to the public and decision-makers that the expenditure
> of funds is necessary and worthwhile and that the priority the project is
> being given relative to other needed highway projects is warranted. In
> addition, although significant environmental impacts are expected to be caused
> by the project, the purpose and need section should justify why impacts are
> acceptable based on the project's importance.
P.S. For those who don¹t like to click links, these resources are reproduced
Sec. 1501.7 Scoping. There shall be an early and open process for
determining the scope of issues to be addressed and for identifying the
significant issues related to a proposed action. This process shall be
termed scoping. As soon as practicable after its decision to prepare an
environmental impact statement and before the scoping process the lead
agency shall publish a notice of intent (Sec. 1508.22) in the Federal
Register except as provided in Sec. 1507.3(e).
(a) As part of the scoping process the lead agency shall:
1. Invite the participation of affected Federal, State, and local agencies,
any affected Indian tribe, the proponent of the action, and other interested
persons (including those who might not be in accord with the action on
environmental grounds), unless there is a limited exception under Sec.
1507.3(c). An agency may give notice in accordance with Sec. 1506.6.
2. Determine the scope (Sec. 1508.25) and the significant issues to be
analyzed in depth in the environmental impact statement.
3. Identify and eliminate from detailed study the issues which are not
significant or which have been covered by prior environmental review (Sec.
1506.3), narrowing the discussion of these issues in the statement to a
brief presentation of why they will not have a significant effect on the
human environment or providing a reference to their coverage elsewhere.
4. Allocate assignments for preparation of the environmental impact
statement among the lead and cooperating agencies, with the lead agency
retaining responsibility for the statement.
5. Indicate any public environmental assessments and other environmental
impact statements which are being or will be prepared that are related to
but are not part of the scope of the impact statement under consideration.
6. Identify other environmental review and consultation requirements so the
lead and cooperating agencies may prepare other required analyses and
studies concurrently with, and integrated with, the environmental impact
statement as provided in Sec. 1502.25.
7. Indicate the relationship between the timing of the preparation of
environmental analyses and the agency's tentative planning and
(b) As part of the scoping process the lead agency may:
1. Set page limits on environmental documents (Sec. 1502.7).
2. Set time limits (Sec. 1501.8).
3. Adopt procedures under Sec. 1507.3 to combine its environmental
assessment process with its scoping process.
4. Hold an early scoping meeting or meetings which may be integrated with
any other early planning meeting the agency has. Such a scoping meeting will
often be appropriate when the impacts of a particular action are confined to
(c) An agency shall revise the determinations made under paragraphs (a) and
(b) of this section if substantial changes are made later in the proposed
action, or if significant new circumstances or information arise which bear
on the proposal or its impacts.
Sec. 1508.25 Scope.
Scope consists of the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be
considered in an environmental impact statement. The scope of an individual
statement may depend on its relationships to other statements (Secs.1502.20
and 1508.28). To determine the scope of environmental impact statements,
agencies shall consider 3 types of actions, 3 types of alternatives, and 3
types of impacts. They include:
(a) Actions (other than unconnected single actions) which may be:
1. Connected actions, which means that they are closely related and
therefore should be discussed in the same impact statement. Actions are
connected if they:
(i) Automatically trigger other actions which may require environmental
(ii) Cannot or will not proceed unless other actions are taken previously or
(iii) Are interdependent parts of a larger action and depend on the larger
action for their justification.
2. Cumulative actions, which when viewed with other proposed actions have
cumulatively significant impacts and should therefore be discussed in the
same impact statement.
3. Similar actions, which when viewed with other reasonably foreseeable or
proposed agency actions, have similarities that provide a basis for
evaluating their environmental consequences together, such as common timing
or geography. An agency may wish to analyze these actions in the same impact
statement. It should do so when the best way to assess adequately the
combined impacts of similar actions or reasonable alternatives to such
actions is to treat them in a single impact statement.
(b) Alternatives, which include:
1. No action alternative.
2. Other reasonable courses of actions.
3. Mitigation measures (not in the proposed action).
(c) Impacts, which may be: (1) Direct; (2) indirect; (3) cumulative.
NEPA and Transportation Decision-making
The Importance of Purpose and Need in Environmental Documents
September 18, 1990
The purpose and need section is in many ways the most important chapter of
an environmental impact statement (EIS). It establishes why the agency is
proposing to spend large amounts of taxpayers' money while at the same time
causing significant environmental impacts. A clear, well-justified purpose
and need section explains to the public and decision-makers that the
expenditure of funds is necessary and worthwhile and that the priority the
project is being given relative to other needed highway projects is
warranted. In addition, although significant environmental impacts are
expected to be caused by the project, the purpose and need section should
justify why impacts are acceptable based on the project's importance.
As importantly, the project purpose and need drives the process for
alternatives consideration, in-depth analysis, and ultimate selection. The
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations require that the EIS
address the "no-action" alternative and "rigorously explore and objectively
evaluate all reasonable alternatives." Furthermore, a well-justified purpose
and need is vital to meeting the requirements of Section 4(f) (49 U.S.C.
303) and the Executive Orders on Wetlands (E.O. 11990) and Floodplains (E.O.
11988) and the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. Without a well-defined,
well-established and well-justified purpose and need, it will be difficult
to determine which alternatives are reasonable, prudent and practicable, and
it may be impossible to dismiss the no-build alternative.
The transportation planning process, which includes regional, sub-area, and
corridor planning, can serve as the primary source of information for
establishing purpose and need as well as evaluating alternatives.
Information and forecasts of vehicle miles of travel, travel demand, highway
and travel speeds, traffic diversion, time of day characteristics, and
traffic accident rates can be provided by the planning process. This
information can be used to evaluate congestion, air quality, safety, and
other environmental issues for various transportation alternatives including
the no-build alternative. Planning can also estimate the benefits and costs
associated with highway and transit projects that can be used in the
development of project "purpose and need."
Consideration of Alternatives
In urbanized areas, the urban transportation planning process required by
Section 134 of Title 23, should result in plans and programs that are
consistent with the comprehensively planned development of an area and that
integrate transportation, land use, and environmental considerations.
Comprehensive planning, which includes transportation, should establish the
basic purpose and need for specific projects and the system wide
consequences of operational improvements and the no-build alternative. For
example, the planning process should identify the need for a transportation
improvement between points x and y at some future date. Further, in a high
percentage of cases, a decision on the appropriate mode (highway or transit)
and the basic project concept (freeway on new location, upgrade of existing
facility, light rail transit, bus/high-occupancy vehicle lanes, approximate
travel demand, etc.) can be determined. In other cases, it may not be
possible to resolve these issues until the conclusion of the project
development process. Scoping meetings early in the environmental process are
an excellent means to reach agreement with the participants on the basic
purpose and need for the project, the consequences of the no-build
alternative, and operational improvements and, where possible, the mode and
After the basic purpose and need for the project are established, a number
of lines can theoretically still be drawn to connect points x and y. If the
project's purpose and need are so vague as to only stipulate that a
transportation improvement between x and y is needed, then reasonable
alternatives would cover a wide range and must be evaluated to comply with
the CEQ regulations. As the project's purpose and need is refined, a number
of alternatives will drop out, thereby permitting a more focused analysis of
those alternatives which truly address the problem to be solved. As
alternatives are dropped from consideration, it is recommended that the
concurrence of those cooperating agencies with jurisdiction by law be sought
in that decision.
In a similar manner, the type of improvement to be considered even after the
planning process may be wide ranging: from upgrading an existing facility to
multi-lane freeway on now location. The traffic demands, safety concerns,
system continuity considerations, etc., all will help define reasonable
alternatives and products from the transportation planning process should
serve as a primary source for this information.
Beyond the CEQ regulations requirement of evaluating all, or a reasonable
number representative of the full spectrum of reasonable alternatives, there
are other more action-limiting requirements for alternatives under Section
4(f), the Executive Orders on Wetlands and Floodplains, and the Section
404(b)(1) guidelines. To address these requirements and conclusively
demonstrate that some alternatives are not prudent or practicable, a
well-justified purpose and need are vital.
The use of land from a Section 4(f) protected property (significant publicly
owned public park, recreation area or wildlife and waterfowl refuge, or any
significant historic site) may not be approved unless a determination is
made that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to such use. There
are numerous factors which could render an alternative "not prudent" because
of unique problems, including cost and environmental impacts. If an
alternative does not meet the project's purpose or satisfy the needs then
the alternative is not prudent provided the purpose and need section can
substantiate that unique problems will be caused by not building the
If a proposed action is to be located in a wetland or it entails a
floodplain encroachment with significant impacts, a finding must be made
that there is no practicable alternative to the wetland take or floodplain
encroachment. Any alternative which does not meet the need for the project
is not practicable. If the project's purpose and need are not adequately
addressed, specifically delineated and properly justified, resource
agencies, interest groups, the public or others will be able to generate one
or possibly several alternatives which avoid or limit the impact and
"appear" practicable. Sometimes long, drawn out negotiations or additional
analyses are needed to clearly demonstrate that an alternative is not
practicable, where a well-described justification of the project's purpose
and need would have clearly established it.
If an alternative does not satisfy the purpose and need for the project, as
a rule, it should not be included in the analysis as an apparent reasonable
alternative. There are times when an alternative that is not reasonable is
included based on the request of another agency or due to public
expectation. In such cases, it should be clearly explained why the
alternative is not reasonable (or prudent or practicable), why it is being
analyzed in detail and that because it is not reasonable that it will not be
Basic Ingredients of Purpose and Need
The purpose and need should be as comprehensive and specific as possible.
For example, rather than simply stating that additional capacity is needed
between two points, information on the adequacy of current facilities to
handle the present and projected traffic, (e.g., what capacity is needed and
the level of service for the existing and proposed facilities) should be
discussed. Other information on factors such as safety, system linkage,
social demands, economic development, and modal interrelationships, etc.,
that the proposed project will attempt to address, should be described as
fully as possible. This will assist in pinpointing and refining the
alternatives which should be analyzed. Further, it will in a sense "protect"
those viable alternatives from sniping by external interests and capricious
suggestions to study something else. If the purpose of and need for the
proposed project are rigorously defined, the number of "solutions" which
will satisfy the conditions can be more readily identified and narrowly
The purpose and need section of the project may, and probably should, evolve
as information is developed and more is learned about the project and the
corridor. For example, assume that the only known information with regard to
purpose and need is that additional capacity is needed between points x and
y. At the outset, it may appear that commuter traffic to a downtown area is
the problem and only this traffic needs to be served. A wide range of
alternatives may meet this need. As the studies progress, it may be learned
that a shopping center, university, major suburban employer, and other
traffic generators contribute substantially to the problem and require
transportation service. In this case, the need is further refined so that
not only commuter trips but also student, shopping, and other trips will be
These refinements would clearly reduce and limit the number of alternatives
which could satisfy the project's purpose and need, thereby reducing the
number and range of reasonable, prudent and practicable alternatives. If an
alternative is suggested that does not serve the university or other traffic
generator, and such service is a vital element of the project, the
alternative may be eliminated from future study since it does not meet the
need for the project.
In the example above, it should be noted that products of the urban
transportation planning process should identify many of the elements which
contribute to the transportation problems. To the extent that the planning
process develops these products and these products are utilized in project
development, it may not be necessary to prepare additional studies.
Some of the elements which may assist in explaining a project's purpose and
need (e.g., capacity, safety, system linkage, etc.), are described on page
14 of FHWA Technical Advisory T 6640.8A - "Guidance for Preparing and
Processing Environmental and Section 4(f) Documents." This discussion is
included here as an appendix. All of the elements which are relevant should
be as fully developed as possible and utilize as specific data as possible
to compare the present, future no-build, and future build conditions. Data
should be presented on such factors as reduction in vehicle hours of travel,
improvements in travel speeds on the system, reduction in traffic accidents,
injuries and fatalities, savings in cost to the traveling public, enhanced
economic development potential, increased tax bass, improved access to
public facilities, etc. It is not sufficient to state that the project is
needed to provide increased capacity and improve safety. Supporting data
must be provided.
Using Purpose and Need in Decision-making
As noted above, the purpose and need define what can be considered
reasonable, prudent, and practicable alternatives. The decision-making
process should first consider those alternatives which meet the purpose and
need for the project at an acceptable cost and level of environmental impact
relative to the benefits which will be derived from the project.
At times, it is possible that no alternative meets all aspects of the
project's purpose and need. In such a case, it must be determined if the
alternatives are acceptable and worthwhile pursuing in light of the cost,
environmental impact and less than optimal transportation solution. To
properly assess this, it is important to determine the elements of the
purpose and need which are critical to the project, as opposed to those
which may be desirable or simply support it, the critical elements are those
which if not met, at least to some minimal level, would lead to a "no-build"
decision. Determining critical needs could include policy decisions as well
as technical considerations.
Other times, the cost or level of environmental impact are not acceptable
and an alternative that only partially meets the purpose and need or the
no-build alternative must be considered. If the costs are justified in
relation to the transportation benefits, then a less than full-build
alternative may be acceptable.
In the vast majority of cases, however, at least one alternative will fully
meet the purpose and need at an acceptable cost and level of impact. In
cases where more than one alternative fully meets the purpose and need, a
number of factors including cost, traffic service, safety, public support,
environmental impact, etc., will be considerations in reaching the decision
on which is the preferred alternative. The requirements of Section 4(f), the
Wetland and Floodplain Executive Orders, and the Section 404(b)(1)
guidelines, of course, play an important role in this process.
Key Points to Remember
In summary, the purpose and need section in the EIS lays out why the
proposed action, with its inherent costs and environmental impacts, is being
pursued. If properly described, it also limits the range of alternatives
which may be considered reasonable, prudent, and practicable in compliance
with the CEQ regulations, Section 4(f) the Executive Orders on Wetlands and
Floodplains, and the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines. Further, it demonstrates
the problems that will result if the project is not implemented.
There are three key points to remember relative to the purpose and need
section of an EIS. It should be:
1. justification of why the improvement must be implemented;
2. as comprehensive and specific as possible; and,
3. reexamined and updated as appropriate throughout the project development
The following is a list of items which may assist in the explanation of the
need for the proposed action. It is by no means all-inclusive or applicable
in every situation and is intended only as a guide.
1. Project Status - Briefly describe the project history including actions
taken to date, other agencies and governmental units Involved, actions
pending, schedules, etc.
2. System Linkage - Is the proposed project a "connecting link?" How does it
fit in the transportation system?
3. Capacity - Is the capacity of the present facility inadequate for the
present traffic? Projected traffic? What capacity is needed? What is the
level(s) of service for existing and proposed facilities.
4. Transportation Demand - Including relationship to any statewide plan or
adopted urban transportation plan together with an explanation of the
project's traffic forecasts that are substantially different from those
estimates from the 23 U.S.C. 134 (Section 134) planning process.
5. Legislation - Is there a Federal, State, or local governmental mandate
for the action.
6. Social Demands or Economic Development - New employment, schools, land
use plans, recreation, etc,. What projected economic development/land use
changes indicate the need to improve or add to the highway capacity?
7. Modal Interrelationships - How will the proposed facility interface with
and serve to complement airports, rail and port facilities, mass transit
8. Safety - Is the proposed project necessary to correct an existing or
potential safety hazard? Is the existing accident rate excessively high?
Why? How will the proposed project improve it?
9. Roadway Deficiencies - Is the proposed project necessary to correct
existing roadway deficiencies (e.g., substandard geometrics, load limits on
structures, inadequate cross-section, or high maintenance costs)? How will
the proposed project improve it?
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