Department of Ecology News Release - January 4, 2013


Ecology adopts SEPA rule changes

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:

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:

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 (

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