9-WA-c State Environmental Impact Statement
The primary purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is to ensure that the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) policies are an integral part of the ongoing programs and actions of state and local government. An EIS must provide impartial discussion of significant environmental impacts and must inform decision makers and the public of reasonable alternatives, including mitigation measures that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance environmental quality. WAC 197-11-400.The EIS process enables government agencies and interested citizens to review and comment on proposed government actions, including government approval of private projects and their environmental effects. This process is intended to assist the agencies and applicants to improve their plans and decisions, and to encourage the resolution of potential concerns or problems prior to issuing a final statement. An environmental impact statement is more than a disclosure document. WAC 197-11-400(4).
9-WA-c.1 – Determination of Significance and Scoping Notice
When the lead agency determines that there will likely be significant environmental impact they 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. WAC 197-11-360.
The lead agency must use reasonable methods to provide notice to the public that scoping analysis is being conducted. Lead agencies are permitted to use their agency-specific procedures. For example, The Washington Department of Natural Resources is required to publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the proposal will be implemented, post the property with appropriate signage, and post notices and environmental documents on their SEPA center web site. WAC 332-41-510.
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. WAC 197-11-510.
9-WA-c.5 to 9-WA-c.6 – Conduct Scoping Analysis
Scoping analysis is used to determine the range of proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be discussed in an EIS. 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. WAC 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. 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 shall not be required to do so. Scoping is used to encourage cooperation and early resolution of potential conflicts, improve decisions, and reduce paperwork and delay. WAC 197-11-408.
9-WA-c .7 - Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Following completion of the scoping analysis, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be produced. A draft EIS must be issued by the responsible official and sent to the following:
- The 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. WAC 197-11-455(1).
An 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. WAC 197-11-425. The EIS must be concise and written in plain language, so it may be understood by the general public.
An EIS must contain the following:
- 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.
- A section that describes the existing environment that will be affected by the proposal, analyze significant impacts of alternatives including the proposed action, and discuss reasonable mitigation measures that would significantly mitigate these impacts. WAC 197-11-440(6).
9-WA-c.8 – Notice of Availability of DEIS
Notice that a DEIS is available must be given. WAC 197-11-455(5). 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. WAC 197-11-510.
9-WA-c.9 to 9-WA-c.10 – Provide Public Notice and Comment on DEIS
Public notice of the DEIS is required. The lead agency is responsible for providing reasonable notice to the public, and they are permitted to use their own form of notice for this purpose. WAC 197-11-510. Any member of the public has 30 days to comment on the DEIS. The lead agency may extend the comment period by 15 days if such extension is requested before the end of the comment period.
9-WA-c.11 – Proposed Final Environmental Impact Statement
Following the comment period for the DEIS, the lead agency will release a proposed Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for review.
Any comments on the DEIS considered by the lead agency must be appended to the FEIS.
9-WA-c.12 – Notice of Availability of FEIS
The lead agency must send the FEIS, or a notice that the FEIS is available, to anyone who commented on the DEIS and to those who received the DEIS. However, failure to notify any such individual will not affect the legal validity of an agency’s compliance with SEPA. WAC 197-11-460(2).
9-WA-c.13 to 9-WA-c.14 – Provide Public Notice and Comment on FEIS
Public notice of the FEIS is required. The lead agency is responsible for providing reasonable notice to the public, and they are permitted to use their own form of notice for this purpose. WAC 197-11-510. Any member of the public has 30 days to comment on the FEIS. The lead agency may extend the comment period by 15 days if such extension is requested before the end of the comment period.
9-WA-c.15 – Consider and Respond to Comments on FEIS
The lead agency must consider comments on the FEIS, 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; and/or
- Explain why the comments received do not warrant further agency response. The lead agency should include sources, authorities, or reasons that support their response and indicate any circumstances that would trigger agency reappraisal or further response. WAC 197-11-560.
9-WA-c.16 – Conduct Hearing on FEIS if Necessary
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; or
- 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. WAC 197-11-535(2).
9-WA-c.17 – Final Environmental Impact Statement
A FEIS must be issued by the responsible official and sent to the Department of Ecology (2 copies), to all agencies with jurisdiction, to all agencies who commented on the DEIS, and to anyone requesting a copy of the FEIS. The responsible official must send the FEIS, or a notice that FEIS is available to anyone who commented on the DEIS and to those who received the DEIS. The agency must wait seven days after the issuance of the FEIS before acting on the proposal. WAC 197-11-460. The lead agency must issue the FEIS within 60 days of the end of the comment period for the DEIS, unless the proposal is unusually large in scope, the environmental impact associated with the proposal is unusually complex, or extensive modifications are required to respond to public comments.
- Washington State Environmental Policy Act
- Washington Environmental Permit Handbook - State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)