USDA APHIS Publishes Final Rule to Amend its National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures

USDA APHIS Publishes Final Rule to Amend its National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is updating its procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to better align with current science and agency practices. These changes will allow APHIS to continue to analyze impacts on the environment, while eliminating the need to prepare specific NEPA documentation for a number of routine program activities.

Under NEPA, agencies create their own implementing procedures that specify which agency actions or activities may require an environmental impact statement (EIS), an environmental assessment (EA), and which are categorically excluded from the need to conduct an EIS or an EA. Since APHIS issued the current guidance in 1995, there have been numerous advances in science and technology, and changes in how the Agency approaches pest and disease management. Many of the actions we currently take are not listed under any category. Today’s updates clarify and modify APHIS’ categories of action, and establish an environmental documentation process to use in emergencies. APHIS’ categories of action include: 1) actions requiring an EIS, 2) actions requiring an EA, and 3) categorical exclusion. New categorical exclusions are available for extending deregulations for genetically engineered organisms and minor modifications to facilities. We updated the examples for routine measures, research and development, and licensing and permitting.

The revisions will support APHIS’ Center for Veterinary Biologics’ (CVB) new streamlined process for licensing veterinary biologics and will lead to cost savings in this area. It is expected that the new NEPA process will improve the efficiency of licensing veterinary biologics.

In July 2016, APHIS published the proposed rule to amend its NEPA implementing procedures, then solicited and reviewed comments. The revised regulations take effect June 25, 2018, 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

This final rule is available at

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/24/2018-11083/national-environmental-policy-act-implementing-procedures



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