by Ben Day, Senior Environmental Specialist
In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act. This act provided $1.9 trillion in relief for state and local governments, hard-hit industries and communities targeted for funding a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan, delivering relief to working families, supporting struggling communities and protecting against future cyberattacks. Notable for Tioga’s clients, the ARP Act provides local governments and partnering developers and associates wide latitude to identify investments in housing, water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure that are of the highest priority for their communities, which may include projects on privately-owned infrastructure.
Eligible water and sewer infrastructure projects include a wide range of projects that would otherwise be eligible for support through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Fund programs for drinking water and clean water (wastewater) infrastructure. There are 11 project categories under the Clean Water SRF and six under the Drinking Water SRF, including planning and design for capital projects and water quality planning likely to result in a capital project. Additionally, the ARP Act provides homelessness assistance and supportive service programs, such as through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program.
In Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is charged with administering the water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure component of the state’s allocation of ARP Act funds. TDEC will award approximately $1 billion in the form of noncompetitive grants to communities for eligible water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects as part of the Tennessee Water Infrastructure Investment Program. Similar programs are being administered by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and other surrounding states.
The ARP Act evaluated the issuance of these funds under the National Environmental Policy Act, with a Finding of No Significant Impact. This removes the need for local agencies receiving money to complete additional NEPA environmental reviews unless they are also funded by other federal financial assistance programs or require other federal permitting. However, environmental issues should still be addressed for each project as needed. For example, if the acquisition of a property is involved, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment should be considered. For installation of new utility lines, a stream and wetland delineation should be performed and the associated permitting should be obtained – but the time and depth of review associated with the NEPA process will not be necessary.
If you need assistance with NEPA reviews, a Phase I ESA or wetland delineations, contact our team today.