Environmental Review Process
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is intended to assist the Surface Transportation Board (Board) and the public in identifying and assessing the potential environmental consequences of a proposed action before a decision on the proposed action is made. The Board's Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) is responsible for ensuring that the Board complies with NEPA and related environmental statutes. The first stage of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is scoping. Scoping is an open process for determining the scope of environmental issues to be addressed in the EIS. As part of the scoping process, OEA developed, and made available for public comment in its October 22, 2012 Notice of Intent, a Draft Scope of Study for the EIS. Scoping meetings were held in the project area to provide further opportunities for public involvement and input during the scoping process. In addition to comments on the Draft Scope of Study, OEA requested scoping comments on potential alternatives to TRRC's proposed alignment, including, at a minimum, those analyzed in the EIS in Tongue River I, which included:
- Tongue River Road Alternative
- Moon Creek Alternative
- Tongue River Alternative
For more information on the public scoping meetings, see the Public Involvement page.
On March 22, 2013, OEA served a Notice of Availability of the Final Scope of Study for the EIS and published it in the Federal Register on the same day. The Final Scope of Study reflects additions and changes to the Draft Scope of Study, including the addition of alternatives and variations, as a result of comments received during the scoping comment period and an additional review of the project area conducted by OEA.
On April 17, 2015, OEA made the Draft EIS available for review and comment by the public, government agencies, and other interested parties. The Draft EIS addresses the environmental issues and concerns identified during the scoping process and assesses and compares alternatives. It also contains OEA's preliminary recommendations for environmental mitigation measures.
After the close of the public comment period, OEA will prepare a Final EIS that responds to all substantive comments received on the Draft EIS. In reaching its decision in this case, the Board will take into account the Draft EIS, the Final EIS, and all environmental comments that are received.
OEA invited several agencies to participate in this EIS process as cooperating agencies on the basis of their special expertise or jurisdiction by law. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps); the Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management (BLM); U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (MT DNRC) accepted the Board's invitation to be cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS. OEA also initiated government-to-government consultation with potentially affected tribes, including the Northern Cheyenne, the Crow, and several bands of the Great Sioux Nation.
Written comments on the Draft EIS may be submitted to:
Surface Transportation Board
395 E Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20423
ATTN: Office of Environmental Analysis
Docket No. 30186
Comments may also be submitted electronically by clicking here. It is not necessary to mail written comments that have been submitted electronically. The public comment period began when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of availability in the Federal Register on April 24, 2015. OEA has issued a notice extending the public comment period for a second time to give the public and interested parties additional time to read and comment on the Draft EIS. The extended public comment period will now end on September 23, 2015. To view the Board's decision extending the deadline to September 23, 2015, click here. To view the initial notice that extended the comment period to August 24, 2015, click here. Comments on the Draft EIS must be received or postmarked by September 23, 2015. To view the comments on the Draft EIS that have been received and posted to date, click here.
In addition to receiving written comments, OEA hosted 10 public meetings in the project area on the Draft EIS during which interested parties made oral comments in a formal setting and/or submit written comments. OEA also held two online public meetings intended for people who could not attend the public meetings in the project area. For more information on the public meetings, please click here.