The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is seeking comments on a proposal that would facilitate the completion of USDA-financed infrastructure projects more quickly.
Under the proposal, Rural Development would be able to set aside financing for certain types of telecommunications, electric, energy, community facilities, and water projects before an environmental review is completed while ensuring full compliance with National Environmental Policy Act procedures prior to project construction and disbursement of USDA funding. USDA's current policy prohibits the approval and distribution of funds before environmental reviews are completed.
The purpose of this rule is to help assure rural communities that funds will be available so they can proceed with implementing infrastructure projects that are critical to community health, safety, or economic development.
Rural Development is inviting comments from the public regarding this proposal. The rule will go into effect on January 7, 2019, unless Rural Development receives significant adverse comments, or notification of an intent to submit significant adverse comments, by December 24, 2018. Comments may be submitted using one of the following methods:
1. Federal eRulemaking Portal:
Visit docket RUS-18-AGENCY-0005 and select "Comment Now!" in the upper right.
2. Postal Mail / Commercial Delivery:
When submitting comments by mail, please state that your comments refer to the Rural Development Environmental Regulation for Rural Infrastructure Projects proposed rule. Comments may be sent to the following address:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Rural Development Innovation Center
ATTN: Michele Brooks, Regulations Team Lead
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Stop 1522, Room 1562
Washington, DC 20250
For more information on the proposed changes and how to submit comments, see page 59269 of the November 23, 2018, Federal Register.