FirstNet Proposes Revisions to NEPA Procedures

The First Responder Network Authority sought comment June 23 on proposed revisions to its procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Comments are due by July 24 in docket number 131219999-7305-03.The revised procedures involve categorical exclusions (CEs) and related extraordinary circumstances, as well as administrative and other provisions.

FirstNet released its original NEPA implementing procedures in 2014 (TR Daily, April 29, 2014). “As it has continued to mature as an organization, FirstNet, as mentioned above, has identified the need to modify its NEPA implementing procedures, CEs, and related extraordinary procedures better align with FirstNet’s statutory mission and activities related to the deployment of the NPSBN, as well as better assist FirstNet in complying with NEPA and FCC regulations,” FirstNet said in a notice published today in the “Federal Register.” “More specifically, FirstNet, as both an independent federal authority and a licensee of the FCC, must satisfy its own NEPA requirements as well as comply with FCC-promulgated NEPA procedures. Under CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] regulations, federal agencies with overlapping NEPA requirements related to the same project are encouraged to streamline their NEPA implementing procedures to avoid duplicative NEPA review. Accordingly, FirstNet is proposing to modify its NEPA procedures and CEs to better align with FCC procedures in order to avoid duplicative NEPA reviews that would otherwise likely result in unnecessary costs to and delays in the deployment of the NPSBN.

“Generally, FirstNet’s proposed revisions include: (1) Updates to the process for determining and documenting categorically excluded activities; (2) the addition of criteria that may trigger the need for the development of an EA; (3) modifications necessary to account for FirstNet’s changes in organizational structure and internal policies and procedures; (4) modifications to the definition and role of an Applicant in the environmental review process; and (5) the establishment of two new CEs and updates to its extraordinary circumstances,” FirstNet added.

One new, updated CE relates to network deployment activities that satisfy environmental requirements and relies on the FCC CE concerning those issues, while the other new CE “will account for the use of cells on wheels, systems on wheels, and similar network equipment,” FirstNet said.- Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily