Washington State Environmental Impact Statement (9-WA-c)
State Environmental Impact Statement Process
9-WA-c.1 – Determination of Significance (DS) and Scoping Notice
When the lead agency determines that there will likely be significant environmental impact it will prepare a Determination of Significance (DS). The DS must describe the main elements of the proposal, the location of the site, and the main areas identified for discussion in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The lead agency must keep the DS on file and will begin scoping analysis. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-360.
The lead agency must use reasonable methods to provide notice to the applicant, agencies with jurisdiction and expertise, affected tribes, and public that scoping analysis is being conducted. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-360. Lead agencies are permitted to use their agency-specific procedures. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-510.
9-WA-c.2 to 9-WA-c.4 – Provide Public Notice and Allow for Comment on DS
The lead agency must allow for comment on the determination of significance and scoping notice for 14 days. To ensure that every EIS addresses the significant environmental issues, the lead agency must invite agency, affected tribes, and public comment on the DS. If the agency requires written comments, agencies, affected tribes and the public must be allowed 21 days for comment. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-408.
If necessary, the lead agency will conduct a public hearing. A public hearing is required if one or more of the following situations occur:
- The lead agency determines, in its sole discretion, that a public hearing would assist it in meeting its responsibility to implement the purposes and policies of SEPA and these rules;
- When fifty or more persons residing within the jurisdiction of the lead agency, or who would be adversely affected by the environmental impact of the proposal, make written request to the lead agency within thirty days of issuance of the draft EIS; or
- When two or more agencies with jurisdiction over a proposal make written request to the lead agency within thirty days of the issuance of the draft EIS.
Notice of the hearing must be given under Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-502(6) and Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-510 and may be combined with other agency notice. The public hearing must be open to discussion of all environmental documents and any written comments received by the lead agency prior to the hearing itself. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-535(4).
9-WA-c.5 to 9-WA-c.6 – Conduct Scoping Analysis
Scoping involves “determining the range of proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be discussed” in the EIS. This process encourages cooperation between agencies and the developer, helps resolve potential conflicts, improves decisions, and reduces paperwork and delay. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-793. The lead agency must narrow the scope of the EIS to the probable significant adverse impacts and reasonable alternatives, including mitigation measures. If the lead agency determines that the scope of the EIS should be limited, then the scope will be adjusted accordingly. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-408.
Because an EIS is required only to analyze significant environmental impacts, scoping is intended to identify and narrow the EIS to the significant issues. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-408. The required scoping process provides interagency and public notice of a DS, or equivalent notification, and opportunity to comment. The lead agency has the option of expanding the scoping process, but is not be required to do so. Wash. Admin. Code §§ 197-11-408 197-11-410.
9-WA-c .7 - Draft Environmental Impact Statement
The lead agency prepares a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) after completing its scoping.
A draft EIS (DEIS) must be issued by the agency and sent to the following:
- The Washington State Department of Ecology (2 copies);
- Each federal agency with jurisdiction over the proposal;
- Each agency with jurisdiction over or environmental expertise on the proposal;
- Each city/county in which adverse environmental impacts identified in the EIS may occur, if the proposal were implemented;
- Each local agency or political subdivision whose public services would be changed as a result of implementation of the proposal;
- The applicable local, area-wide, or regional agency, if any, that has been designated under federal law to conduct intergovernmental review and coordinate federal activities with state or local planning;
- Any person requesting a copy of the EIS from the lead agency; and
- Any affected tribe.
The DEIS must containing the following:
- A fact sheet containing the information provided in Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-440(2);
- A table of contents;
- A summary of the contents of the EIS;
- A list of alternatives that includes the proposed action. Reasonable alternatives must include actions that could feasibly attain or approximate a proposal’s objectives, but at a lower environmental cost or decreased level of environmental degradation; and
- A section that describes the existing environment that will be affected by the proposal, analyzes significant impacts of alternatives (including the proposed action), and discusses reasonable mitigation measures that would significantly mitigate these impacts.
The EIS must allow the reader to understand the most significant and vital information concerning the proposed action, alternatives, and impacts, without turning to other documents. It must be concise and written in plain language, so that it may be understood by the general public. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-425.
9-WA-c.8 to 9-WA-c.10– Notice of Availability of DEIS
The lead agency must give notice that that DEIS has been completed and is available. The agency must use reasonable methods to inform the public and other agencies that an environmental document is being prepared or is available and that public hearings, if any, will be held. The lead agency may use its existing notice procedures. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-510.
Agencies and members of the public have 30 days to comment on the DEIS. The lead agency may extend the comment period by 15 days if such an extension is requested before the end of the comment period. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-455.
9-WA-c.11 – Hold Public Hearing (If Applicable)
A public hearing on the environmental impact of a proposal must be held whenever one or more of the following situations occur:
- The lead agency determines that a public hearing would assist it in meeting its responsibility to implement the purposes and policies of SEPA;
- Fifty or more persons residing within the jurisdiction of the lead agency, or who would be adversely affected by the environmental impact of the proposal, make written request to the lead agency within 30 days of issuance of the DEIS; or
- Two or more agencies with jurisdiction over a proposal make written request to the lead agency within 30 days of the issuance of the DEIS.
The hearing must be held between 15 and 50 days after the DEIS is issued and notice of the hearing must be published at a minimum 10 days before the hearing. WAC 197-11-535(3); Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-502(6)(b).
9-WA-c.12 – Consider and Respond to Comments on DEIS
The lead agency must consider comments on the DEIS and respond to such comments in one or more of the following ways:
- Modify alternatives including the proposed action;
- Develop and evaluate alternatives not previously given consideration by the lead agency;
- Supplement, improve, or modify the analysis;
- Make factual corrections;
- Explain why the comments received do not warrant further agency response. The lead agency should include sources, authorities, or reasons that support its response and indicate any circumstances that would trigger agency reappraisal or further response.
9-WA-c.13 to 9-WA-c.18 – Were Significant New Issues Raised During the Comment Period?
If any significant new issues were raised during the DEIS comment period, the lead agency may choose to issue a supplemental DEIS with a second comment period prior to issuing the final EIS. This allows the public, tribes, and other agencies to review and comment on the new material and analyses before the document is finalized. The notice and comment requirements for the supplemental DEIS are the same as those for the initial DEIS. SEPA Online Handbook § 3.5.3.
9-WA-c.19 –Final EIS
After responding to comments made on the DEIS , the lead agency will release a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). All substantive comments considered by the lead agency must be appended to the FEIS. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-560. The agency must release the FEIS within 60 days of the end of the comment period for the DEIS, except when:
- The proposal is unusually large in scope;
- The environmental impacts are unusually complex; or
- Responding to the DEIS comments requires extensive modifications to the EIS and/or the project.
If any of these exceptions apply, there is no time limit in which the FEIS must be issued. SEPA Online Handbook § 3.5.2.
The lead agency must send the FEIS, or a notice that the FEIS is available, to the Washington State Department of Ecology (2 copies), all agencies with jurisdiction, all agencies who commented on the DEIS, anyone who commented on the DEIS, and those who received but did not comment on the DEIS. However, failure to notify any such individual will not affect the legal validity of the agency’s compliance with SEPA. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-460. Public notice of the FEIS is also required. The agency must use reasonable methods to provide notice to the public and is permitted to use its own form of notice for this purpose. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-510.
The agency may take action on the proposal 7 days after the FEIS has been issued. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-460.
9-WA-c.20 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)
Each lead agency decides whether or not to offer an administrative appeals process. However, if the lead agency does permit administrative appeals, the procedures must comply with those set out in Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-680(3)(a). Any individual wishing to appeal the DS or DNS must first go through the administrative appeals process, if the lead agency provides one. Wash. Rev. Code § 43.21C.075(4); Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-680(3)(c). If the lead agency does not provide an administrative appeals process, the individual wishing to appeal may initiate a judicial appeal. Wash. Admin. Code § 197-11-680(4).
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