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NEPA: NIJ Grants Program Checklist and Instructions

NIJ Grants Program Checklists provide a method for ensuring that the projects NIJ is considering for funding do not have any unique characteristics that would create the potential for significant environmental impacts. The NIJ Grants Program Checklist summarizes the typical resource concerns that are often associated with projects submitted to NIJ for funding by applicants and subrecipients. Each resource area is listed separately, with the significance criteria for that resource also shown for reference.

The NIJ Grants Program Checklist (pdf, 8 pages) has been formatted as an electronically fillable PDF for your convenience. You also may print the document and fill it out by hand.

How to Complete the Checklist/Resource Questions

Be prepared to answer questions about the project that fall within the following resource categories:

For each question, select “Yes”, “No”, or “N/A” from the drop-down menu.

For questions that you mark non-applicable to your project, please provide an explanation in the comments section as to why that question does not apply to your project.

For example, if a question asks if you will avoid impacting any areas in or adjacent to habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered species during construction, and your work is only to conduct research in an existing laboratory, you may write “no construction as part of this project; all work will be conducted in an existing lab.”

If you need additional context for questions, please see the glossary in the Programmatic Environmental Assessment or contact the NIJ NEPA Coordinator by email or phone (202) 514-7663.

Air Quality

Applicable Law: Clean Air Act (CAA)

The Clean Air Act was passed to protect human health and the quality of air resources. There are a variety of programs under the CAA that focus on reducing outdoor or ambient concentrations of air pollutants that cause smog, haze, acid rain and other problems and phasing out production and use of chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone. The CAA established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six "criteria" air pollutants, which are widespread common pollutants known to be harmful to human health, to which every state must comply. Criteria pollutants include Carbon Monoxide (CO), Lead (Pb), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ozone (O3), Particulate Matter (PM), and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2). To view the latest NAAQS, see the NAAQS Table on EPA’s website. The CAA also sets requirements that apply to debris burning, demolition of properties, and construction dust.

For projects possibly involving the release of air pollutants, you should determine if your project is located in an attainment or non-attainment area to see if you must apply for any necessary federal and/or state permits. To check your state and county for attainment status, see EPA’s Green Book or for supplemental information on terminology and nonattainment areas for criteria pollutants, see the EPA’s The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act.

TIP: If air emissions may or will be produced from your project (e.g. the use of large construction vehicles, burning of any kind), consider specifying how those will be managed in the comments section of the NIJ Grants Program Checklist (e.g. laboratory fume hoods).


Geology, Topography, Soils

Applicable Law: Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) and local ordinances

The Farmland Protection Policy Act is intended to minimize the impact federal programs have on the unnecessary irreversible conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses and to be compatible with state and local agencies, private programs, and policies to protect farmland. For the purpose of FFPA, farmland includes prime farmland, unique farmland, and land of statewide or local importance. Farmland subject to FPPA requirements does not have to be currently used for cropland; it can be forestland, pastureland, cropland, or other land, but not water or urban built-up land. For construction or renovation projects, other areas of concern under this resource category include soil erosion mitigation measures.

For construction and renovation projects that will disturb soils, and therefore have potential for soil erosion or may include the use of farmland, you should determine if possible impacts to soil may require mitigation measures. If mitigation is required, please provide an explanation in the comments section. In order to provide a “yes” to the NIJ Grant Program Checklist, the project should avoid erosion and deposition, compacting soil in fragile environments, or altering the character of the soils over a large area.


Water Resources

Applicable Law: Clean Water Act (CWA), EO 11988, EO 11990, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Coastal Barrier Resource Act (CRBA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), State and Local Water Requirements

The Clean Water Act was enacted to control water pollution. If a federal action may discharge into or occur near the waters of the United States, a federal agency may need to consider CWA and other water policies and regulations during the NEPA process.

CWA protects surface waters through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for point source pollution (e.g. pipes, facilities, or man-made ditches). Nonpoint source pollution (NPS) is regulated under CWA, which comes from diffuse sources such as runoff from rainfall that picks up natural or unnatural pollutants and carries them into the water. Examples of NPS include fertilizer, oil, sediment, and bacteria. Stormwater management is critical to effective management of NPS.

Other applicable laws pertaining to water resources include Executive Order (EO) 11988: Floodplain Management requiring federal agencies to avoid long and short-term adverse impacts associated with occupancy and modification of floodplains and avoiding direct and indirect support of floodplain development when there is a practicable alternative. Also, please take into account EO 11990: Protection of Wetlands intended to “minimize the destruction, loss or degradation of wetlands and to preserve and enhance the natural and beneficial values of wetlands.” Laws and policies like the Safe Drinking Water Act and State and Public Water Requirements also need to be followed. If the project is near a Wild and Scenic River or coastal barrier, please review Applicant Resources below for additional information.

For projects involving any effect on water quality, you should determine if the project falls within a 100-year or 500-year flood zone, wetland, coastal barrier resource, or in the vicinity of a scenic river or any body of water. Be sure the site and project activity avoid contamination, sedimentation, or otherwise causing significant impacts that may affect water quality or hydrology of a nearby surface water body. Please note in the comments section how you will control materials used in the project to ensure no discharge. Also, please ensure that the project follows all local and state stormwater runoff regulations.

TIP: For construction activities, it is important to follow all state, local, and tribal regulations concerning erosion controls, runoff abatement, and vegetation removal and to follow proper hazardous spill procedures so as to minimize impacts of spills on water quality. Ensure proper disposal procedures are followed for solid waste and hazardous waste. If mitigation is required, please provide an explanation in the comments section.


Natural Environment

Applicable Law: NEPA, Endangered Species Act (ESA)

For projects that may impact the natural environment, you must ensure impacts to native vegetation, wildlife and wildlife habitats are minimal or properly mitigated at the site. If mitigation is required, please provide an explanation in the comments section.


Endangered Species

Applicable Law: Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

The Endangered Species Act protects federally-listed species (fish, birds, mammals, insects) and plants. A species considered Endangered is any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species considered Threatened is any species likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

For projects involving federally-protected species, determine if the project area is in or in the vicinity of a federal or state-listed threatened or endangered (T&E) species or its critical habitat. If the project area is located within or adjacent to habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered species, consultation may be required. Possible mitigation may be required if the project is expected to adversely impact a listed species; if so, please provide an explanation in the comment section.

Some States may also have their own threatened and endangered species lists and requirements so it is important to check on your local requirements.


Historic Preservation

Applicable Law: National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 106

Section 106 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) a reasonable opportunity to comment. This law requires federal agencies to consider the effects of federally funded, regulated, licensed, permitted, or approved undertakings on cultural resources listed on or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Cultural resources are defined as either recorded or potential historic archaeological sites, prehistoric sites, and standing architectural structures or historic districts. The five general categories for NRHP properties are: building, structure, object, site, and district.

For projects involving cultural resources, determine if the site is in an archaeological or culturally sensitive area or a historical structure, a NRHP listed property, or a property at least 50 years or older eligible for listing. If so, please provide a consultation letter from SHPO and/or other needed consultations (e.g. Tribal Historical Preservation Offices (THPO), Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO)). Please provide an explanation in the comments section if mitigation measures are required.

TIP: Questions regarding historic preservation are found on page 5 of the NIJ Grants Program Checklist. Note that these questions reference “SHPO”, which refers to the State Historic Preservation Officer.


Land Use

Applicable Law: Local zoning and development ordinances

Zoning allows state, local, and tribal communities to guide local land use patterns and future development. Parcels of land are typically divided into specified districts with measurable standards, specifying conditions and restrictions on development activity that is permitted by counties, municipalities and/or local authorities.

For construction projects involving possible restrictions related to zoning or other land ordinances, determine if you need to apply for rezoning. If there is construction or a change in use or renovations, please ensure you obtain necessary building and/or occupancy permits in order to provide a “yes” to the NIJ Grants Program Checklist. You must comply with local zoning and development ordinances.

TIP: Most urban areas have established planning ordinances or local comprehensive and development plans, but some rural jurisdictions do not so it is important to check.


You can access your local zoning and development ordinances on your state, county, or municipal website or local office.

Human Population

Applicable Law: Executive Order 12898: Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures, and income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, programs, and policies. Evaluation is required for all federally funded projects to determine whether the action would result in a disproportionately high or adverse impact on low-income or minority populations.

To see if your project has the potential to significantly impact environmental justice, you can find additional information at the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice webpage or the Census Bureau Fact Finder website.  

TIP: Look at the proximity to local residences to see what is near the project site and consider potential impacts to populations by your project (e.g. noise impacts, aesthetic impacts, local employment, pollution, area revenues).



Applicable Law: Noise Control Act of 1972, State and local noise regulations

The federal government established noise guidelines and regulations for the purpose of protecting citizens from potential hearing damage and from various other adverse physiological, psychological, and social effects associated with noise. Under the Noise Control Act of 1972, the EPA has the authority to establish noise regulations to control major sources of noise, including transportation vehicles and construction equipment. This Act also allowed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish workplace standards for noise.

If your project has the possibility of emitting noise, determine if the noise exceeds the ambient noise level standards determined by the federal agencies as well as state, and/or local governments.


TIP: Other relevant federal noise ordinances can be found in the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Guidebook , the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) Highway Traffic Noise , and the US Code of Federal Regulation Title 40 and Title 42.


Applicable Law: The Energy Policy Act of 2005

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 addresses relevant topics of energy efficiency, vehicles and motor fuels, electricity, energy tax incentives and climate change technology.

For projects occurring within an existing facility and requiring additional energy, the site’s increased energy demand must be negligible on the region’s energy supply. Ensure the site complies with electricity and gas provisions regulations and to avoid wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessary consumption of energy.

For projects involving renovation or construction, these projects will consume energy during the production of construction materials, in operating and maintaining construction equipment, and when transporting materials to the site. NEPA regulations also require the consideration of indirect impacts (e.g. operating a facility after it is constructed, vehicles using the facility).

TIP: Visit the EPA’s Energy Efficiency Guidance for further information on federal energy efficiency legislation, policies, guidance and programs, as well as current energy efficiency technologies, standards, and products. If mitigation is needed, please provide an explanation in the comments section.


Solid Waste Management

Applicable Law: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), State Hazardous Waste Programs

RCRA gives the EPA authority to control the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of solid and hazardous waste from cradle-to-grave in order to protect human health and the environment. Applicants have the primary responsibility for compliance with permitting and specific regulatory requirements for the management of waste. Requirements vary depending on whether waste will be generated, transported, treated, stored, or disposed. Requirements also vary for solid and hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is defined as any solid, liquid, contained gaseous, or semisolid waste, or any combination of wastes that poses a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment. Note that requirements also exist for storage tanks.

For projects involving solid non-hazardous or hazardous waste, ensure all waste is disposed of properly. In order to provide a “yes” to the NIJ Grants Program Checklist, laboratories must maintain safe and adequate storage and disposal procedures for non-hazardous and hazardous waste. Impacts from hazardous and non-hazardous materials and waste would be considered significant if the action resulted in noncompliance with applicable federal, tribal, state, and local regulations, or increased the amounts of these substances generated or procured beyond current management procedures and capacities.



Applicable Law: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) federal policies and regulations, State transportation laws

For projects or sites impacting transportation or parking, please provide relevant information and NIJ will make a determination on whether further environmental supplementation is needed. If mitigation measures are required, please provide an explanation in the comments section.


State Environmental Policy Act

Applicable Law: State Environmental Policy Act

A number of states have laws patterned after NEPA. Just as NEPA requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental analysis document for actions that will affect the environment, state environmental policy acts (SEPAs) may impose similar obligations on state or local government agencies, or even private organizations. SEPA is designed to ensure that environmental values are considered during land use decisions; adequate and timely environmental information is gathered and provided to decision makers; and public involvement is included in the decision-making process. Projects that are awarded from NIJ occurring in the following states are subject to and must comply with a state environmental policy act:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • D.C.
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

For projects located in any of the above states, please visit the state’s environmental agency website to find more information. For projects not located in a state with its own SEPA, the project would not require SEPA compliance.

TIP: To find more information on state environmental policy acts, see the CEQ website on States and Local Jurisdictions with NEPA-like Environmental Planning Requirements. Compliance with SEPA can be documented on page 8 of the NIJ Grants Program Checklist.

Intergovernmental Review

Applicable Law: NEPA/Executive Order 12372 Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs

Your project may affect another federal, state, or tribal agency project or program. If so, NIJ may need to consult and coordinate with that appropriate agency to ensure consistency and determine if further intergovernmental review is necessary. The coordination may require outreach to cooperating agencies under NEPA or Intergovernmental Review as required by E.O. 12372.


Cumulative Impacts

Applicable Law: National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

NEPA requires federal agencies to address each project on a larger scale, taking into account all consequences as well as the effect of cumulative impacts on the environment. While an individual impact may be insignificant by itself, the combined, incremental effects of a proposed action can accumulate over time, from one or more sources, and can result in the degradation of important resources. The CEQ provides a good definition and general approach in how to analyze cumulative impacts.

For all projects consider past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions that may incrementally contribute to cumulative effects on resources affected by the proposed action. This may entail a more extensive or broader view of each possible impact.

TIP: Determine if your project information is proportionate with impacts of the project. Look at current activities and future plans to see if your project will be contributing impacts in respect to other activities in the vicinity. Mitigation measures may be implemented to address these possible impacts or further evaluation may be required from NIJ. Mitigation measures must be explained in the comments section of the NIJ Grants Program Checklist. 


NIJ Grants Program Checklist Glossary

This page includes definitions of the technical terminology found in NIJ’s PEA and NIJ Grants Program Checklist.

100-year and 500-year Floodplain – A floodplain is the level area adjoining a river channel that is inundated during periods of high flow. A 100-year floodplain would have a 100-year recurrence interval of flooding. In other words, a flood of that magnitude has a 1 percent chance of happening in any year. Likewise, a 500-year flood would have a 500-year recurrence interval, or a 0.2 percent chance of happening in any year .

Ambient – Of the surrounding area or environment. 

Attainment/ Non-Attainment Area – An attainment area is a zone within which the level of a pollutant is considered to meet United States National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). It is an area considered to have air quality as good as or better than the NAAQS as defined in the Clean Air Act. A non-attainment area is considered to have air quality worse than the NAAQS and must have and implement a plan to meet the standard, or risk losing some forms of federal financial assistance. An area may be an attainment area for one pollutant and a non-attainment area for others.

Biodiversity – The number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region; the variety of different habitats within an area; the variety of interactions that occur between different species in a habitat; and the range of genetic variation among individuals within a species.

Criteria Pollutants – Criteria air pollutants include the most common air pollutants as identified by the 1970 Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls these pollutants "criteria" air pollutants because it regulates them by developing human health-based and/or environmentally-based criteria (science-based guidelines) for setting permissible levels. The set of limits based on human health is called primary standards. Another set of limits intended to prevent environmental and property damage is called secondary standards.

Critical habitat – Critical habitat is a specific geographic area that is essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management and protection. Critical habitat for a listed species may be designated under the Endangered Species Act.

Cumulative Impacts – Impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (federal or non-federal) or person undertakes such other actions.

Environmental Justice – Fair treatment of all races, cultures, incomes, and educational levels with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, fair treatment implies that no population of people should be forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impacts of pollution or environmental hazards due to a lack of political or economic strength levels.

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged to protect human health and the environment. It has the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments.

Erosion – The wearing down or washing away of soil and land surface by the action of water, wind, or ice.

FWS – The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal agency responsible for addressing the protection of fish and wildlife, including rare, threatened, or endangered species. The FWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms under the Endangered Species Act.

Hydrology – The applied science concerned with the waters of the earth, their occurrences, distribution, and circulation through the unending hydrologic cycle (precipitation, consequent runoff, infiltration, and storage; evaporation; and condensation). In the context of this document, it refers to the overland and subsurface movement of water.

Land Use – The way in which real property is utilized. Examples of land uses include commercial, industrial, residential, or wilderness designations.

Mitigation Measures – Specific measures that serve to moderate or lessen impacts deriving from a proposed action. Mitigation includes avoidance, minimization, rectification, reduction, and compensation of adverse impacts.

NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce. NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine resources and their habitats. The NMFS has primary responsibility for marine species such as salmon and whales under the Endangered Species Act.

Non-native plant - An introduced, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity, either deliberate or accidental. Some introduced species are damaging to the ecosystem they are introduced into, others negatively affect agriculture and other human uses of natural resources, or impact the health of animals and humans.

NRHP – National Register of Historic Places is America's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Listed properties generally fall into one of five categories, though there are special considerations for other types of properties which do not fit into these five broad categories or fit into more specialized subcategories. The five general categories for NRHP properties are: building, structure, object, site, and district.

Runoff abatement – Measures taken to reduce the amount of runoff. See definition for Stormwater Runoff below. 

Sedimentation – The act or process of depositing sediment. Sediment consists of solid fragments of inorganic or organic material that come from the weathering of rock and are carried and deposited by wind, water, or ice. Sediment can be deposited in natural water bodies via erosion or stormwater runoff where it can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grown. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats.

Sensitive Receptors – Land uses and activities sensitive to noise. Common sensitive receptors include: picnic areas, recreation areas, playgrounds, active sports areas, parks, residences, motels, hotels, schools, churches, libraries, and hospitals.

SHPO – The State Historic Preservation Office was created in 1966 under Section 101 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The purposes of SHPO include surveying and recognizing historic properties, reviewing nominations for properties to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, reviewing undertakings for the impact on the properties as well as supporting federal organizations, state and local governments, and private sector.

State Implementation Plan (SIP)– A State Implementation Plan is a U.S. state plan for complying with the federal Clean Air Act. The Plan consists of narrative, rules, technical documentation, and agreements that an individual state will use to clean up polluted areas.

Stormwater Runoff - Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground. Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into water bodies used for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.

T&E species – Threatened and Endangered (T&E) species are defined under federal law. A species considered Endangered is any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species considered Threatened is any species likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 

Water quality – Water quality is the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water. It is most frequently used by reference to a set of standards against which compliance can be assessed. The most common standards used to assess water quality relate to drinking water, safety of human contact and for the health of ecosystems. 

Wetland – Wetlands are areas inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and other similar areas. A jurisdictional wetland is an area that meets the criteria established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for a wetland; such areas come under the jurisdiction of the USACE for permitting certain actions such as dredge and fill operations. 

Date Published: September 9, 2019