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FEMA Categorical Exclusions

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provides for each agency to develop a list of categories of actions that are determined through agency experience to typically have no significant environmental impact, and thus may generally be excluded from detailed documentation (Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement).

Review and documentation for actions that qualify for one or more of these categories is generally minimal but should address any extraordinary circumstances and any requirements of other environmental laws or executive orders. Though detailed NEPA documentation does not apply, requirements of other laws must be documented as appropriate.

List of Categorical Exclusions

FEMA’s list of categorical exclusions are included in Appendix A of DHS Instruction Manual 023-01-001-01, Rev 01. The presence of one or more extraordinary circumstances precludes the application of a categorical exclusion (CATEX) to a proposed action when the circumstances would have significant environmental impact (i.e., EIS required), or presents the potential for significant environmental impacts (i.e., EA required), or that potential cannot be readily determined (i.e., EA required). A determination of whether an action that is normally excluded requires additional evaluation because of extraordinary circumstances focuses on the action’s potential effects and considers the environmental significance of those effects in terms of both context (i.e., local, state, regional, Tribal, national, or international) and intensity.

Components consider whether the proposed action involves one or more of the following extraordinary circumstances:

  1. A potentially significant effect on public health or safety.
  2. A potentially significant effect on species or habitats protected by the ESA, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or other law protecting a species or habitat.
  3. A potentially significant effect on historic properties (e.g., districts, sites, buildings, structures, or objects) that are listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, affects traditional cultural properties or sacred sites, or leads to the loss or destruction of a significant scientific, cultural, or historical resource.
  4. A potentially significant effect on an environmentally sensitive area.
  5. A potential or threatened violation of a Federal, State, or local law or requirement imposed to protect the environment. Some examples of other requirements to consider are: a local noise control ordinance; the requirement to conform to an applicable State Implementation Plan for air quality standards; Federal, Tribal, State, or local requirements to control hazardous or toxic substances; and environmental permits.
  6. An effect on the quality of the human environment that is likely to be highly controversial in terms of scientific validity, likely to be highly uncertain, or likely to involve unique or unknown environmental risks. This also includes effects that may result from the use of new technology or unproven technology. Controversy over, including public opposition to, a proposed action absent any demonstrable potential for significant environmental impacts does not itself constitute an extraordinary circumstance.
  7. Extent to which a precedent is established for future actions with significant effects.
  8. Significantly greater scope or size than normally experienced for this particular category of action.
  9. Potential for significant degradation of already existing poor environmental conditions. Also, initiation of a potentially significant environmental degrading influence, activity, or effect in areas not already significantly modified from their natural condition.
  10. Whether the action is related to other actions with individually insignificant, but cumulatively significant impacts.
Last updated July 28, 2020