SEPA Rule Revisions

SEPA rule amendments relating to the SEPA Statutory Exemptions in RCW 43.21C

On August 1, 2003, the Department of Ecology adopted amendments to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) rules, WAC 197-11, to make the SEPA rules consistent with Washington's SEPA statute, RCW 43.21C.  The "statutory exemptions" in RCW 43.21C were removed from the SEPA rules to avoid confusion with other rule requirements.  Agencies must now consult both the SEPA rules (WAC 197-11) and the SEPA statute (RCW 43.21C) to determine if a proposal is categorically exempt from SEPA review.

These amendments were in response to a lawsuit challenging the validity of WAC 197-11-305.  In Plum Creek Timber Company v. FPAB et. al., Thurston County Superior Court Cause No. 02-2-00490-1, Petitioners are seeking a declaratory ruling from the court that WAC 197-11-305 is invalid as applied to Class I, II, and III forest practices.  The legislature has statutorily exempted Class I, II, and III forest practices from SEPA review under RCW 43.21C.037 and RCW 76.09.050(1).

However, when Ecology adopted the SEPA rules in 1984, Class I, II, and III forest practices, along with all of the other "statutory exemptions" contained in RCW 43.21C, were included within the list of “categorical exemptions” contained in Part Nine of the SEPA rules. This has resulted in the “statutory exemptions” being subject to the provisions of WAC 197-11-305 requiring SEPA review in certain prescribed circumstances. This is inconsistent with legislation contained in RCW 43.21C providing that statutorily exempt actions are not subject to environmental review under SEPA. The amendments were necessary to make the SEPA rules consistent with legislation set forth in RCW 43.21C statutorily exempting specific proposed actions from SEPA review.

Categorical exemptions are located in both the SEPA rules (WAC 197-11) and the SEPA statute (RCW 43.21C).  To determine if a proposal is categorically exempt from SEPA review, consult both the rules and the statute.

Rule Text: This is a link to the final rule amendments.

CR-103, rule making order was filed with the Code Reviser on August 1, 2003 and becomes effective 31 days later.

Concise explanatory statement:  This document includes a summary of the comments received on the proposed SEPA rule amendments and Ecology's response to each comment.

CR-102, notice of proposed rule making was filed with the Code Reviser and published in the February 5, 2003 State Register.

Determination of Nonsignificance and Environmental Checklist issued on February 4, 2003.

CR-101, notice of intent to prepare rule amendments

For questions on this rule making effort, please email the SEPA Unit. TTY for Hearing Impaired: 711 or 1-800-833-6388.

Previous Rule Amendment Activities

The Department of Ecology investigated revising portions of the SEPA Rules, Chapter 197-11 WAC.  These rulemaking activities were halted due to budget cuts.  However, material related to these activities will continue to be available on this website. Information is available on the following three rule revision subjects:

SEPA Rules and related links