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The Planning Process

What is a Tier 1 EIS?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of proposed projects as part of their decision-making. Given the scope and complexity of the NEC FUTURE program, a "tiered" approach to the environmental review process was chosen. The Tier 1 EIS assesses the broad corridor-wide impacts of proposed improvements. More detailed Tier 2 environmental reviews would be needed to examine the potential impacts of the site-specific projects that are advanced to implement the Tier 1 alternative selected.

The environmental review process is designed to study and screen preliminary alternatives to identify "fatal flaws" by comparing their impacts and benefits based on measurable criteria. Alternatives that do not merit further consideration are eliminated and feasible alternatives are advanced for further study and refinement and more detailed screening. This evaluation process ultimately leads to the selection of a Preferred Alternative.

The Tier 1 EIS considers the following questions:

  • How might the services and infrastructure investments being considered in the SDP affect the natural and human environment in the Northeast?
  • How should potential alternatives be shaped or modified to avoid negative environmental consequences and promote positive consequences?
  • Which alternative(s) meet the Purpose and Need with the best consequences for the region?

The Tier 1 Draft EIS will consist of the following elements:

  • Project Purpose and Need
  • Alternatives Considered
  • Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences, and
  • Strategies for Minimizing or Mitigating Unavoidable Impacts

The Tier 1 Draft EIS will document the planning process and describe the proposed improvements, potential impacts and proposed strategies for minimizing and mitigating negative impacts. It will also describe the steps taken to comply with Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, and the Final USDOT Environmental Justice Order 5610.2A. This includes an assessment to ensure that the alternative selected does not have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on protected populations.

A key objective of the NEPA process is to provide the public with information about the proposed project and a forum for commenting on it. A scoping process, including public meetings throughout the NEC, took place from June 22-October 19, 2012 to help define the scope of study for the EIS. Additional public meetings will be held as the study continues. Public hearings and a public comment period will be scheduled when the Draft EIS is published.

The Tier 1 EIS for the NEC will consider a variety of potential environmental impacts that the proposed action may have, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Railroad Administration’s Environmental Procedures.

View a list of potential environmental impacts