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Real Estate and Facilities

Completing GEPA Evaluations

Print friendly Modified April 3, 2012

The Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA) is a state law designed to help state agencies conduct their projects “with an awareness that they are stewards of air, land, water, plants, animals and environmental, historical and cultural resources.” For the Board of Regents (BOR), this is accomplished by completing environmental evaluations of each project or “proposed government action” as prescribed by the Act.

Many BOR new construction and renovation projects meet the definition of a “proposed government action” under state law, and therefore require a GEPA evaluation. Significant legal liability and fines/penalties could result from failure to complete a GEPA evaluation or from inaccurate or incomplete GEPA evaluations.

The following procedures shall be used by design professionals and USG institutions to ensure compliance with GEPA:

For Major Capital Projects:
The project design professional shall retain a qualified environmental consultant to complete the GEPA evaluation during the schematic design phase of the project. The design professional shall review and consider the findings of the environmental site assessment (ESA) report (which should have been completed during programming/site selection or pre-planning phase of the project - see the BOR Procedure for ESA’s and/or Appendix 4 B of the BOR Building Project Procedures Manual). The ESA report should provide the environmental consultant with the technical site information necessary to properly complete the GEPA evaluation. If an ESA was not completed during programming/site selection or pre-planning, the environmental consultant shall be commissioned to complete a “combined ESA/GEPA evaluation” (see Appendix 6 D of the BOR Building Project Procedures Manual) at this time. The completed GEPA evaluation (or the combined ESA/GEPA report) shall be submitted to the BOR Program Manager in a timely fashion during schematic design or the initial stages of preliminary design to obtain the necessary approvals. If the GEPA evaluation determines that no adverse effects will be created by the project, the GEPA evaluation shall be approved and the project may proceed as planned. If the GEPA evaluation determines there will be adverse effects, the project design shall either be modified to mitigate the adverse effects, or an environmental effects report (EER) shall be prepared in accordance with the attached GEPA Implementation Procedure. Note: Preliminary design documents shall not be approved without an approved GEPA evaluation.

For Minor Capital Projects:
In most cases, the project design professional shall retain a qualified environmental consultant to complete the GEPA evaluation during the schematic design phase of the project. For certain minor capital projects where it is believed that an enironmental consultant may not be necessary, the project design professional shall contact the BOR Program Manager and/or the BOR Director of Environmental Affairs during schematic design to discuss options for completing the GEPA evaluation. For certain minor capital projects, the design professional and/or the institution’s representative(s) may have adequate knowledge of the subject property, and the project may be such that hiring an environmental consultant may not be necessary. If the decision is made to retain an environmental consultant, all procedures outlined above (under “major capital projects) shall be followed. If an environmental consultant is not retained, the design professional shall consult with the institution representative(s) and shall complete the GEPA evaluation themselves. The completed GEPA evaluation (or the combined GEPA/EAS report) shall be submitted to the BOR Program Manager in a timely fashion during schematic design or the initial stages of preliminary design to obtain the necessary approvals. If the GEPA evaluation determines that no adverse effects will be created by the project, the GEPA evaluation shall be approved and the project may proceed as planned. If the GEPA evaluation determines there will be adverse effects, the design plans shall be altered to mitigate the effects or an environmental effects report (EER) shall be prepared in accordance with the attached GEPA Implementation Procedure. Note: Preliminary design documents shall not be approved without an approved GEPA evaluation.

All Projects that are not Major or Minor Capital Projects:
The design professional and/or the institution shall be responsible for completing the necessary GEPA evaluation (as outlined above under major or minor capital projects) for any project within the University System of Georgia which may be defined as a “proposed government action” in accordance with the attached GEPA Implementation Procedure. For proposed projects where questions may exist, institutions and design professionals are instructed to consult with their BOR Program Manager and/or the BOR Director of Environmental Affairs. Note: Preliminary design documents shall not be approved without an approved GEPA evaluation.

Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA) - Board of Regents’ Implementation Procedure

  1. INTRODUCTION
    GEPA Evaluations shall be completed for all USG “proposed government actions” so that appropriate decisions may be made as to whether to proceed with a particular project or whether to modify a project design in some way. GEPA evaluations shall be completed during schematic design or during the initial phase of preliminary design. If the GEPA evaluation identifies any possible significant adverse effects, an environmental effects report (EER) shall be prepared in accordance with GEPA before the project may proceed any further. The Vice Chancellor for Facilities shall, upon review of the GEPA evaluation and other relevant information, determine whether a project may proceed as planned, whether design changes are necessary, or whether an environmental effects report (EER) must be completed.
  2. PROJECT QUALIFICATION CRITERIA
    The first decision under GEPA is to determine whether a proposed project or action qualifies as a “Proposed Governmental Action” and therefore must be evaluated in accordance to GEPA. USG projects qualify for GEPA if:
    • The action (project) is funded by state funds, and if so funded, then any one action below mandates an assessment:
    • The action is a land disturbing activity, including but not limited to: scraping, plowing, clearing, dredging, grading, excavating, transporting or filling of land, or placement of any structure or impervious surface, dam, obstruction or deposit.
    • The moving or altering of any structure on or eligible for placement on the Georgia Register of Historical Places.
    • The sale or exchange of more than five acres of state owned land.
    • The harvesting of five acres or more of trees over two inches in diameter at breast height.
    Most “significant” projects on Board of Regents property, whether it is a “major capital”, “minor capital”, or “other” project, will qualify for GEPA evaluations. Where questions exist regarding the relative “significance” of a proposed project, institutions shall consult with the Board of Regents Director of Environmental Affairs to determine whether a GEPA evaluation must be completed.
  3. THE FORMS

    Project designers and institutions shall use the attached GEPA Checklist and Project Initial Evaluation forms to complete the GEPA Evaluation.

  4. RESULTS

    Projects or actions determined by the Vice Chancellor as not having a significant adverse effect on the environment shall require no further action.

    Projects or actions determined by the Vice Chancellor as having possible adverse effect on the environment shall have further action.

    For projects with possible adverse effects, the Vice Chancellor shall authorize the preparation of an EER by a qualified professional, including but not limited to, a discussion of:

    1. The environmental impact of the proposed governmental action;
    2. Alternatives to the proposed project action, including no action;
    3. Any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided if the proposed project or action is undertaken;
    4. Mitigation measures proposed to avoid or minimize the adverse impact of the Proposed project or action;
    5. The relationship between the value of the short-term uses of the environment involved in the proposed project or action and the maintenance and enhancement of its long-term value;
    6. The effect of the proposed project or action on the quality and quantity of water supply;
    7. The effect of the proposed project or action on energy use or energy projection.
    8. Any beneficial aspects of the proposed project or action, both short-term and long-term, and its economic advantages and disadvantages; and
    9. Comments from other governmental agencies which may have jurisdiction, special expertise, or other interests in regard to any category noted on the Environmental Check List as producing possible adverse environmental effects (written correspondence shall be attached).

    At least 45 days prior to the project bid date, the Vice Chancellor shall publish a notice in the legal organ of the county in which the proposed project or action (or any part thereof) is to occur stating that an EER has been prepared. The Vice Chancellor shall provide a copy of the EER (including other governmental agency comments) to the Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The Vice Chancellor shall also make the EER available to the public and to counties, municipalities, institutions, and individuals, upon request.

    If the Vice Chancellor receives, within 30 days of the publication of the notice, at least 100 written requests for a public hearing, he or his designee shall hold a public hearing in accordance with the provisions of GEPA.

    The Vice Chancellor shall consider the EER and all comments received either in writing or during the public hearings, if held. After considering these comments, the Vice Chancellor shall decide whether to proceed with the project or action as originally proposed, to proceed with changes, or not to proceed. Notice of the decision of the Vice Chancellor shall be given in writing to the Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and published in the legal organ of the county in which the project or action (or any part thereof) is to occur.

    The decision of the Vice Chancellor to proceed shall not create a cause of action in any person, corporation, association, county or municipal corporation except as provided by law regarding the procedure of giving notice of publication of the EER and the decision.

GEPA Environmental Check List

Initial GEPA Evaluation Form