Grant Administration: Section 5.4 Other Environmental Review ApproachesTiered Reviews
Tiering is a specialized form of conducting environmental reviews and is not appropriate for all activities, funding sources, or grantees. However, using tiered reviews may increase efficiency when at the planning level the RE does not yet fully know the specific timing, location, or environmental impacts. For HUD environmental reviews, tiering may be appropriate when the RE is evaluating a collection of projects that would fund the same or very similar activities repeatedly within a defined local geographic area and timeframe but where the specific sites are not yet known. Some examples include housing rehabilitation or homebuyer projects in a specific community or a redevelopment project with repeated activities such as sidewalk improvements for low- and moderate-income households. In such instances, the RE:
1. Completes an up-front programmatic completion of the environmental review form, often the Environmental Review for CEST form that identifies potential applicable compliance areas (Attachment 5-3). This is considered the Tier 1 review.
2. Performs Tier 2 review when specific properties are identified providing the address-specific review criteria. The RE may use the Statutory Checklist to complete the Tier 2 review (see Attachment 5-13). For many housing-related projects, the applicable Statutory Checklist compliance will be limited to historic preservation, floodplain protection, and wetlands protection. Attachment 5-13: Statutory Checklist
Using this process, grantees can publish a NOI/RROF and receive a Release of Funds based on the programmatic information. The Release of Funds for such situations will be conditional on the grantee completing an individual Statutory Checklist for each specific rehabilitation project. This site specific Statutory Checklist for each individual rehabilitation address must then be completed prior to incurring hard costs for that property.
Re‐Evaluation of Previously Cleared Projects
Sometimes, projects are revised, delayed or otherwise changed such that a re‐evaluation of the environmental review is necessary. RE must re-evaluate environmental findings when:
- Change in nature or extent of project,
- New environmental circumstances or conditions occur
- Selection of alternative not in original finding
The purpose of the RE’s re‐evaluation is to determine if the original findings are still valid. If the original findings and FONSI are still valid, but the data and conditions upon which they were based have changed, the responsible entity must amend the original findings and update their ERR by including this re‐evaluation and its determination. CDFA will accept environmental reviews up to 3 years old.
A sample determination is provided as Attachment 5‐14. Attachment 5-14: Re-Evaluation of Environmental Review
It must document the following:
- Reference to the previous environmental review record,
- Description of both old and new projects’ activities and maps delineating both old and new project areas,
- Determination if FONSI is still valid, and
- Signature of the certifying officer and date.
Place the written statement in the ERR and send a copy to CDFA with the Request for Release of Funds (RROF).
If the responsible entity determines that the original findings are no longer valid, it must prepare an EA or an EIS if the evaluation indicates potentially significant impacts.
Another Agency is Involved
When another federal or state agency has funds in the project, it will frequently conduct its own environmental review process. The grantee is free to use that agency’s review to compile its own record. In fact, it makes some sense to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. However, other federal agencies do not always cover all of the same environmental requirements as HUD. The grantee is reminded that:
- Use of another agency’s documentation does not avoid or minimize its own responsibilities for fulfilling the compliance reviews for CDBG.
- Conduct of the public comment requirements must still be fulfilled.
Before making a finding based on another agency’s review, the RE should check the review carefully against the requirements referenced in this chapter, to ensure that the contents are sufficiently inclusive to allow the grantee to meet its responsibilities. There are HUD-specific review criteria that are not performed by other federal agencies. If that review falls short in certain areas, it can be supplemented by the grantee to meet its requirements.
Remember, the grantee cannot simply substitute another agency’s hearing and comment process for the notice requirements referenced here. The grantee must check that the public comment process and review requirements fulfil the format prescribed in this implementation guide.
If possible, it is encouraged that the grantee combines the comment process for funds from the same federal agency (HOME and CDBG, for example). Please contact CDFA for additional guidance on combining notices with other agencies.