85 FR 43367, July 16, 2020, unless otherwise noted.
(a) After preparing a draft environmental impact statement and before preparing a final environmental impact statement the agency shall:
(1) Obtain the comments of any Federal agency that has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved or is authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards.
(2) Request the comments of:
(i) Appropriate State, Tribal, and local agencies that are authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards;
(ii) State, Tribal, or local governments that may be affected by the proposed action;
(iii) Any agency that has requested it receive statements on actions of the kind proposed;
(iv) The applicant, if any; and
(v) The public, affirmatively soliciting comments in a manner designed to inform those persons or organizations who may be interested in or affected by the proposed action.
(3) Invite comment specifically on the submitted alternatives, information, and analyses and the summary thereof (§ 1502.17 of this chapter).
(b) An agency may request comments on a final environmental impact statement before the final decision and set a deadline for providing such comments. Other agencies or persons may make comments consistent with the time periods under § 1506.11 of this chapter.
(c) An agency shall provide for electronic submission of public comments, with reasonable measures to ensure the comment process is accessible to affected persons.
Cooperating agencies and agencies that are authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards shall comment on statements within their jurisdiction, expertise, or authority within the time period specified for comment in § 1506.11 of this chapter. A Federal agency may reply that it has no comment. If a cooperating agency is satisfied that the environmental impact statement adequately reflects its views, it should reply that it has no comment.
(a) To promote informed decision making, comments on an environmental impact statement or on a proposed action shall be as specific as possible, may address either the adequacy of the statement or the merits of the alternatives discussed or both, and shall provide as much detail as necessary to meaningfully participate and fully inform the agency of the commenter's position. Comments should explain why the issues raised are important to the consideration of potential environmental impacts and alternatives to the proposed action, as well as economic and employment impacts, and other impacts affecting the quality of the human environment. Comments should reference the corresponding section or page number of the draft environmental impact statement, propose specific changes to those parts of the statement, where possible, and include or describe the data sources and methodologies supporting the proposed changes.
(b) Comments on the submitted alternatives, information, and analyses and summary thereof (§ 1502.17 of this chapter) should be as specific as possible. Comments and objections of any kind shall be raised within the comment period on the draft environmental impact statement provided by the agency, consistent with § 1506.11 of this chapter. If the agency requests comments on the final environmental impact statement before the final decision, consistent with § 1503.1(b), comments and objections of any kind shall be raised within the comment period provided by the agency. Comments and objections of any kind not provided within the comment period(s) shall be considered unexhausted and forfeited, consistent with § 1500.3(b) of this chapter.
(c) When a participating agency criticizes a lead agency's predictive methodology, the participating agency should describe the alternative methodology that it prefers and why.
(d) A cooperating agency shall specify in its comments whether it needs additional information to fulfill other applicable environmental reviews or consultation requirements and what information it needs. In particular, it shall specify any additional information it needs to comment adequately on the draft statement's analysis of significant site-specific effects associated with the granting or approving by that cooperating agency of necessary Federal permits, licenses, or authorizations.
(e) When a cooperating agency with jurisdiction by law specifies mitigation measures it considers necessary to allow the agency to grant or approve applicable permit, license, or related requirements or concurrences, the cooperating agency shall cite to its applicable statutory authority.
(a) An agency preparing a final environmental impact statement shall consider substantive comments timely submitted during the public comment period. The agency may respond to individual comments or groups of comments. In the final environmental impact statement, the agency may respond by:
(1) Modifying alternatives including the proposed action.
(2) Developing and evaluating alternatives not previously given serious consideration by the agency.
(3) Supplementing, improving, or modifying its analyses.
(4) Making factual corrections.
(5) Explaining why the comments do not warrant further agency response, recognizing that agencies are not required to respond to each comment.
(b) An agency shall append or otherwise publish all substantive comments received on the draft statement (or summaries thereof where the response has been exceptionally voluminous).
(c) If changes in response to comments are minor and are confined to the responses described in paragraphs (a)(4) and (5) of this section, an agency may write any changes on errata sheets and attach the responses to the statement instead of rewriting the draft statement. In such cases, only the comments, the responses, and the changes and not the final statement need be published (§ 1502.20 of this chapter). The agency shall file the entire document with a new cover sheet with the Environmental Protection Agency as the final statement (§ 1506.10 of this chapter).