Project, Program, and Policy Environmental Reviews
Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) receives and funds hundreds of projects each year for its transmission, power, and fish and wildlife organizations. For example, BPA invests in distributed generation projects, fiber optic communications projects, and stream restoration projects, to name a few. Each project that BPA funds that has the potential to impact the environment must undergo an impact analysis. Often times, especially for site-specific projects, BPA must start a brand new, independent impact analysis.
In order to fulfill BPA's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) responsibility to analyze impacts, it is determined if the activities and impacts of projects have already been assessed in one of the program EISs. If the activities and impacts are adequately addressed, BPA then completes a supplement analysis (SA) under the existing program EIS while taking into consideration the localized, site-specific impacts of the proposed activities. The supplement analysis process is identified in the Department of Energy NEPA regulations
Program Reviews: Over the last decade, BPA realized they were spending a a lot of time documenting the same impacts for the same activities from year to year. In other words, environmental analysts found that installing a culvert in Idaho had very similar impacts to installing a culvert in Oregon. Similarly, controlling overgrown vegetation on a transmission right-of-way in northern California had similar impacts to vegetation control in central Washington.
In an effort to streamline the environmental compliance process, BPA analyzed groups of activities associated with vegetation management on their transmission rights-of-way, watershed management and wildlife mitigation under the fish and wildlife mitigation programs. Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) were written for each of these three "Programs". The resulting environmental documents are called Program EISs.
In order to fulfill BPA's NEPA responsibility to analyze impacts, it is determined if the activities and impacts of projects have already been assessed in one of the program EISs. If the activities and impacts are adequately addressed, BPA then completes a Supplement Analysis (SA) under the existing program EIS while taking into consideration the localized, site-specific impacts of the proposed activities. The Supplement Analysis process is identified in the DOE NEPA regulations here.
Policy Reviews: Most people are familiar with environmental impact statements prepared for site-specific or on the ground activities. BPA thought that, in an effort to make our policy decision-making process more timely and informed, a programmatic environmental impact analysis process could be applied to BPA policy decisions.
To date, BPA has completed two policy-level EISs. The Business Plan EIS analyzes the relationships among BPA, the utility market, and the affected environment. BPA evaluated alternative ways to conduct daily business while meeting statutory obligations and Strategic Business Objectives. In 1995, the Administrator signed the Business Plan EIS Record of Decision and in doing so, established BPA's market-driven policy approach, allowing BPA to perform in the increasingly competitive energy marketplace. Since 1995, over 35 policy decisions have been "tiered" off of the Business Plan EIS.
With diverse demands and often-conflicting interests relying on the natural resources of the Pacific Northwest, a number of fish and wildlife species are affected by BPA's actions, including many listed as endangered or threatened. The Fish and Wildlife Implementation Plan EIS (FWIP EIS) examined the potential environmental consequences of following different Policy Direction alternatives to implement and fund fish and wildlife mitigation and recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest. In October, 2003, the Administrator adopted the PA 2002 alternative and signed the Record of Decision.