Changes to SEPA rules proposed by Ecology officials

OLYMPIA – After months of working in partnership with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) advisory committee, the Department of Ecology has submitted proposed changes to the statewide rule.

SEPA was enacted by the Washington legislature in 1971 to ensure that environmental values are considered during decision-making by state and local agencies. SEPA requires identification and evaluation of probable impacts to the environment before making decisions on projects, plans, programs and policies.

The proposed changes to the rules are intended to make SEPA work better for local governments and their communities while considering environmental protection needs.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed rule changes through Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Comments can be submitted through email at separulemaking@ecy.wa-.gov, by fax at 360-407-6904 or can be mailed to Fran Sant, Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Dr., Lacey WA 98503.

The SEPA advisory committee was formed as a result of state legislation passed in 2012. Advisory committee members represent cities, counties, the business community, environmental groups, agriculture, state agencies, cultural resources and tribes.

“The advisory committee took a thoughtful, collaborative approach and provided us with excellent input,” said Brenden McFarland, environmental review section manager for the Department of Ecology. “That input helped us draft the proposed changes that will make the SEPA rule work better.”

The proposed changes to the SEPA rules will:

...Provide greater flexibility for cities and counties to determine their area’s exemption levels

...Clarify the analysis required before cities and counties increase their exemption levels

...Increase the public review period prior to city and county adoption of increased exemption levels

...Expand and clarify exemptions for maintenance activities

...Update and clarify other provisions of the SEPA rules

The Department of Ecology will host a presentation and a question and answer session followed by formal hearings.

The hearing will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, at the Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey. The first hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. and a second will begin at 6:30 p.m.

To participate or comment by phone, call 1-800-704-9804, pin number 8386377#.

For more information about the rule changes, visit the Department of Ecology’s website at ecy.wa.gov.

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