The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) agency is seeking public comments regarding the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the development of a more efficient and effective environmental review process for the RUS Telecommunications Program.
The RUS Telecommunications Program provides a variety of loans and grants to build and expand broadband networks in rural America. RUS is currently seeking comments from interested stakeholders to contribute to the development of agency procedures for implementing the environmental review procedures of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program, Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program, Community Connect Grant Program, and Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
RUS is requesting comment and discussion from broadband providers on:
- What are the greatest challenges in completing environmental reviews, including NEPA, NHPA, and ESA for both wired and wireless technologies?
- For projects requiring the use of Federal land, what are the greatest challenges in obtaining the necessary land use authorizations or permits?
- What is a reasonable length of time for RUS to consider a completed loan application, including environmental reviews and compliance, before making a decision to fund a project?
- What should RUS do to expedite the completion of environmental reviews and compliance during the review of project applications, particularly for projects that cross land with multiple ownership, i.e., private, Federal, state, or tribal lands?
- What additional guidance should the RUS field personnel to assist you in completing the necessary requirements for a loan or grant application, including environmental reviews and Federal land use permits if they are needed?
- What environmental protection measures and/or design and construction standard operating procedures for environmental protection have you found to be most efficient and cost-effective?
Comments must be submitted by January 27, 2015. More information can be found here.