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When Does the State Environmental Policy Act Apply to UNC-Chapel Hill Projects?

Any new project, renovation or redevelopment project on University-owned property (state land) that meets all three of the following criteria requires the preparation of an Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact (EA/FONSI) document:

  1. 10 or more acres or $10 million or more.
    1. single project
    2. or related group of projects or action
  2. And requires an action from a state permitting agency.
    1. Common examples are erosion control permit and/or reclaimed water permit.
  3. Has a potentially detrimental effect on natural or cultural resources or public health and safety.
    1. Applies to all projects meeting items #1 and #2.

When Should the Project Involve Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Environmental Affairs?

Contact EHS Environmental Affairs early in the design process. It can take several months to compile the documents, and the State Clearinghouse is allowed 30 days to review and respond once the EA/FONSI is submitted.

If the project has additional environmental considerations, such as surface water regulatory requirements (e.g. wetlands or stream buffers), potential archeological sites, expected hazardous materials remediation, etc., allow time for additional communications with the reviewing agencies.

EA/FONSI Preparation Process

The Facilities Planning project manager contracts with an environmental consultant to compile the EA/FONSI. Facilities Planning coordinates an initial meeting between EHS Environmental Affairs and the environmental consultant to discuss scope and process of preparing the EA/FONSI.

The environmental consultant follows the NCDOA March 1999 document “Environmental Assessment Guidelines” to complete all items in Section 2. This may require reaching out to one or more regulatory agency to gather information on potential environmental impacts.

EHS reviews the draft EA/FONSI and sends comments/edits to consultant. This process is repeated until the document is approved and deemed complete by EHS.

EHS coordinates signature of the Conclusion Statement (page 8) by the EHS Executive Director and inserts this page into the EA/FONSI as the final section before the appendices.

EHS completes Section 1 (cover letter). The letter will be signed by the Associate Vice Chancellor (AVC) for Facilities Services and the EHS Executive Director. Do not request signatures yet. Prior to requesting signatures, EHS sends the draft cover letter and draft EA/FONSI to University Counsel for review. University Counsel does not need to sign the letter, but will acknowledge via email that the documents have been reviewed and are approved for submittal to the State Clearinghouse. After University Counsel reviews and approves the cover letter and EA/FONSI document, EHS obtains signatures from the AVC and the EHS Executive Director.

EHS combines the signed cover letter with the EA/FONSI into one PDF document.

EHS submits the final EA/FONSI to the NC State Clearinghouse via email to Copy the AVC, EHS Director, the Facilities Planning project manager and the EA/FONSI preparer(s) on the email. The State Clearinghouse forwards the EA/FONSI to the appropriate regulatory agencies for review and comment.

The State Clearinghouse has 30 days to review the EA/FONSI and return a decision of acceptance or rejection and will reply back via email with supporting documentation from the agencies that reviewed the submittal. EHS reviews the documents and shares recommendations (if provided) with the project team.


  1. State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)
  2. NC Department of Administration (DOA) State Environmental Review Clearinghouse
  3. Document Content Requirements and Submittal Process
  4. University of North Carolina Administrative Memorandum (1997), NC Environmental Policy Act
  5. NC DOA Environmental Assessment Guidelines