Ecology adopts SEPA rule changes

Let’s remember that these bad rules were put out on election day, under the waning days of Governor Christine Gregoire. It allows local communities to drive a truck through the state protections, and greatly expands the ability of local officials to set aside hard won environmental protections.

If we have our reservations about Gregoire being the head of EPA, this is one of the reasons for it.

———————————————————-
     OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has adopted a new rule that increases the flexible thresholds local governments may adopt to exempt certain minor new construction projects from review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
     Enacted in 1971, SEPA helps state and local agencies in Washington identify possible environmental impacts that could result from governmental decisions such as issuing permits for private projects, constructing public facilities, or adopting regulations, policies or plans.
     SEPA applies to all state and local agency decisions including state agencies, cities, counties, ports and special districts such as school and water districts.
     Every year, state and local agencies in Washington use SEPA to evaluate about 6,000 proposed decisions. Information learned through the review process can be used to change a proposal to reduce likely impacts, apply conditions to or deny a proposal when adverse environmental impacts are identified.
     SEPA also gives local governments the option to allow some minor construction projects, depending on their size and scale, to be exempt from review.
     To comply with a law passed by the 2012 Washington Legislature and approved by Gov. Chris Gregoire, Ecology’s new rule increases the size and scale thresholds for building projects local governments can choose to be exempt from SEPA review, including:
* Small-scale residential housing developments.
* Office, school and commercial buildings with adjoining parking lots under a certain size.
* Agricultural structures within a specific square footage.
* Minor landfill and excavation activities.
     The exemption levels will vary depending whether a proposed project would be located in a city, unincorporated areas inside an urban growth area, or in a county that is or is not planning under the state Growth Management Act.
     Besides increasing the flexible thresholds for minor construction projects, the new rule also:
* Makes the SEPA checklist more efficient by allowing checklists to be submitted electronically to lead state and local agencies and give agencies the ability to skip irrelevant checklist questions when considering changes to plans, programs or policies.
* Expands the exemption threshold for electrical utilities from 55,000 to 115,000 volts in existing rights-of-way and developed utility corridors.
     Ecology will conduct a second, broader round of SEPA rule revisions later this year.
###
Media contact: Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)
SEPA rulemaking: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/rulemaking2012.html
More about SEPA: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/e-review.html
Ecology’s website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/
Ecology’s social media: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html
____________________________________________________________________________
Department of Ecology’s Home Page:  http://www.ecy.wa.gov
To unsubscribe to Ecology-news, point your browser to http://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=ecology-news&A=1 or send a "SIGNOFF Ecology-news" command to LISTSERV@LISTSERV.WA.GOV.

Dept of Ecology Proposes Significant changes in Environmental Protections

Disturbing changes proposed by the Department of Ecology with only thirty days to give feedback. Interesting that they choose to put this out on election day. Highlighting is mine.

The issue here is that new residential projects up 60 units, and ag development up to 24,000 sq ft. could be exempt from the SEPA regs, all based on local county and city development planners. These officials are often not elected.

DOE calls these kind of projects, ‘minor’, an adjective that is highly subjective.

We recommend that you write DOE and show your concerns with this part of the proposal.

We are in favor of the streamlining of the regs, but giving away environmental protections is not one of them.

—————————————

Washington Department of Ecology news
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Nov. 6, 2012
12-364

Ecology seeks public comment on draft SEPA rule changes

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is seeking
public comment on a draft rule to increase the flexible thresholds local
governments can adopt to exempt minor new construction projects from review
under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The department will hold two public hearings for the proposed rule on
Tuesday Dec. 4, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Ecology headquarters
building, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey. Each will include a presentation,
question-and-answer period and time for formal public comments.

SEPA was enacted in 1971 to help agencies identify possible
environmental impacts that could result from governmental decisions such as
issuing permits for private projects, constructing public facilities, or
adopting regulations, policies or plans.

The environmental review law applies to decisions by every state and
local agency in Washington including state agencies, cities, counties, ports
and special districts such as school and water districts.

Every year, state and local agencies across the state use SEPA to
evaluate about 6,000 proposed decisions. Information learned through the
review process can be used to change a proposal to reduce likely impacts, or
to condition or deny a proposal when adverse environmental impacts are
identified.

SEPA also gives local governments the option to allow some minor
construction projects, depending on their size and scale, to be exempt from
review. These include:

* Small-scale residential housing developments.
* Office, school and commercial buildings with adjoining parking lots under
a certain size.
* Agricultural structures within a specific square footage.
* Minor landfill and excavation activities.

To comply with a new law passed by the 2012 Washington Legislature and
approved by Gov. Chris Gregoire, Ecology is seeking to increase the size and
scale thresholds for building projects local governments can choose to be
exempt from SEPA review.

Under Ecology’s draft rule, these exemption levels would vary
depending whether a proposed project would be located in a city,
unincorporated areas inside an urban growth area, or in a county that is or
is not planning under the state Growth Management Act.

For example, the proposed rule would give local governments the option
to select the exempt threshold for single-family housing developments from
between four to up to 30 units. For multi-family buildings, local
governments could select from four to up to 60 units as the exempt level
while the threshold for minor agricultural construction projects could be
between 10,000 to 40,000 square feet.

Besides increasing the flexible thresholds for minor construction
projects, the draft rule would expand the exemption threshold for electrical
utilities from 55,000 to 115,000 volts in existing rights-of-way and
developed utility corridors.

The proposed rule also is designed to make the SEPA checklist more
efficient. Proponents for projects not exempt from SEPA review must fill out
an environmental checklist that asks questions about the proposal and its
potential impacts on earth, air, water, plants, animals, energy,
environmental health, land use, transportation, public services and
utilities.

The draft rule would allow SEPA checklists to be submitted to lead
state and local agencies electronically. The rule would also allow state and
local agencies to skip irrelevant project checklist questions when
considering changes to plans, programs or policies

To assist Ecology in updating the SEPA rule, the department formed a
special advisory committee made up of members representing cities and
counties, agricultural, business, cultural and environmental interests,
tribal governments and state agencies. More about the committee at
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/rulemaking/AdvisoryCommittee.html

The public comment period for the proposed rule is open until Dec. 11,
2012.

Written comments and questions regarding the proposed rule can be
submitted by mail to Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47703, Olympia, WA
98504-7600; via email separulemaking@ecy.wa.gov; or faxed to 360-407-6904.

For specific comments or questions about the draft SEPA rule, contact
Fran Sant at fran.sant@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6932.

In 2013, Ecology will conduct a second, broader round of SEPA rule
revisions.

###

Media contact: Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908
(curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

SEPA rulemaking: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/rulemaking2012.html

Ecology rule page: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/wac19711/1201.html

More about SEPA: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/e-review.html

Ecology’s website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/

Ecology’s social media: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html

%d bloggers like this: