Department of Ecology News Release - November 27, 2012

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UPDATED: The user code for the call-in phone number has been updated. The correct number is 543362#. (12/4/2012)

Ecology holding hearings on draft SEPA rule changes Dec. 4

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will conduct two hearings in Lacey on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, to gather public comment on a draft rule that would provide more flexibility for local governments to exempt minor new construction projects from review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The hearings will be held at 1:30 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m., at Ecology headquarters building, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey. Each hearing will include a presentation, question-and-answer period and time for formal public comments.

The rule change is in response to legislation passed last spring.

Ecology will accept formal comments in-person during the hearings and by phone. Participants may call 1-800-704-9804 and use code 543362#.

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.

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

Enacted in 1971, SEPA helps 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.

SEPA applies to decisions by all state and local agencies in Washington including state agencies, cities, counties, ports and special districts such as school and water districts.

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

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

These include:

Under Ecology’s draft rule, local governments will have a broader ability to deem more minor projects exempt from requiring SEPA review.

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.

Besides increasing the flexible thresholds for minor construction projects, the draft rule also is designed to:

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

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

More information:

SEPA rulemaking (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/rulemaking2012.html)

Ecology rule page (www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/wac19711/1201.html)

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

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)