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Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual

Chapter 10: Environmental Evaluation of State-Funded Projects

10.0 Overview

The previous chapters of this Environmental Procedures Manual have focused primarily on transportation projects that are funded in part or in whole through federal programs, and therefore fall under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Transportation projects that do not involve federal-aid funding and do not otherwise constitute a major federal action are exempt from the provisions of NEPA. Federal court law, however, has established that under some circumstances, NEPA may apply to a non-federal project. In a 2001 Tennessee case (Southwest Williamson County Community Association v. Slater, et al. ), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals defined two alternative tests for determining whether a non-federal project might actually constitute a major federal action to the extent that the requirements of NEPA would apply. 1 The two tests identified in this case are:

  1. When the non-federal project restricts or limits the statutorily prescribed federal decision-makers' choice of reasonable alternatives; or
  2. When the federal-decision makers have authority to exercise sufficient control or responsibility over the non-federal project so as to influence the outcome of the project.

Future court decisions may refine these tests or impose other tests or criteria that would affect the process that is used to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a non-federally-funded transportation project in Tennessee.

This chapter describes TDOT's policy on the environmental evaluation and documentation of state-funded projects that do not constitute a major federal action, as defined above. The chapter identifies types of projects that are covered by this policy and describes the documentation to be prepared. It also describes the agency coordination and public involvement to be conducted as a part of the environmental evaluation. References are made to earlier chapters and sections in this Environmental Procedures Manual to indicate when previously identified procedures may or may not be applicable to the environmental evaluation of state-funded transportation projects.

Footnotes

1. In the case in question (regarding State Route 840 South), the federal decision makers were the FHWA (with authority over interchanges to Interstate highways), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (for streams and wetland permits) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (for a crossing of the Natchez Trace Parkway). The court concluded that neither of the two tests was met, and the highway corridor did not constitute a major federal action for NEPA purposes.

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