Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Environmental assessment asks for specific results August 18, 2013

RFQ-AirportEnvironmentalPlanningServices-EA-final092612An assessment for a proposed expansion of the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport uses a contract asking that a full environmental study be avoided.

The $650,000 environmental assessment for an east terminal at the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport incorporates a request for proposal asking that a full environmental impact statement be avoided. The wording includes: “pursuing a Finding of No Significant Impact.”

The contract with Ricondo and Associates was approved in May.

“The FAA objectively evaluates and determines the adequacy of
Environmental Assessment documentation before we accept it and use it to
develop our environmental determination,” said Ian Gregor,
FAA Pacific division public affairs manager.

“I read the wording and it is odd as the reason for the EA is to determine the potential impact and to see if an Environmental Impacts Statement is warranted.  I think this language makes it predecisional, which is contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club  Grand Canyon chapter director.

“The Environmental Assessment is the process of pursuing a Finding of No Significant Impact. If through this process, it is determined a potential significant impact exists then the EA process stops and an Environment Impact Statement (a more extensive project scope conducted by the Federal Government) is needed,”  said Brian Sexton, the airport’s public information officer.

The Environmental Assessment is currently underway with an estimated completion date of December 2014, he said.

He explained: “The Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) is issued when the environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA process finds a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment. A FONSI is a public decision document that briefly describes why the project will not have any significant environmental effect and will not require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The FONSI is usually a one-page document to which the EA is attached or referenced.”

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