Just before adjournment, the 2012 Legislature adopted significant SEPA amendments that we reported in previous Legal News Bulletins. A central feature of the SEPA amendments was the mandate that the Department of Ecology (Ecology) update and increase the levels of categorical exemptions in the SEPA Rules by the end of 2012 and 2013 in two installments.
The legislation also mandated the appointment of a SEPA Rulemaking Advisory Committee, representing cities, counties, business interests, environmental interests, agricultural interests, cultural resources interests, state agencies and tribal governments, to work with Ecology in developing new rules. Ecology now has appointed the Committee. Foster Pepper Attorneys Dick Settle and Pat Schneider will represent business interests as member and alternate member, respectively.
The first installment of the new rules must be completed by the end of this year and must increase the existing maximum exemption levels for (with some exceptions):
- Single-family residential developments;
- Multifamily residential developments;
- Agricultural structures;
- Office, school, commercial, recreational, service and storage buildings, including associated parking facilities;
- Landfilling or excavation activities; and
- Electrical facilities.
The new maximum exemption levels must vary for developments inside and outside of cities/urban growth areas and counties that are not required to plan under the Growth Management Act.
The new rules also must update the SEPA environmental checklist to improve its efficiency but may “not include any new subjects into the scope of the checklist, including climate change and greenhouse gases.”
Dick Settle and Pat Schneider welcome your ideas and concerns, as soon as possible, as the rule-making proceeds. Ecology and the Committee must move fast to meet the December 31, 2012 deadline for the first installment of the new rules. Committee meetings are scheduled for August 14, September11 and October 2, 2012. Watch for future bulletins as the new rules take shape.
For more information, contact any attorney in our Land Use and Environmental practice groups.