Thursday, May 17, 2012

SEPA: Streamlining government AND protecting the environment

Ensuring a clean and healthy environment is important for Washington families and public health. Also vital to maintaining a vibrant Washington is having a permitting process that isn’t unnecessarily complex and expensive. This year, the Legislature took a major step towards streamlining the permitting process while continuing to protect environment.

Enacted in the early 1970’s the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts during the project approval process. SEPA helps ensure our state continues to be a great place to live, work, and visit. However, the act hasn’t kept up with the times.

In the 40 years since it was passed, several other federal, state, and local environmental protection laws have been adopted including the state's Growth Management Act and the federal Clean Air Act. Some of those laws overlap or conflict with SEPA. Overlapping and conflicting laws make the permitting process more complicated, expensive, and drawn out for government agencies and builders.

In his first term as a state legislator, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) took on the challenge of bringing SEPA into the 21st Century. He worked with various stakeholders in proposing changes to SEPA in an effort to streamline the review process while still protecting our environmental treasures.

Although it was a bumpy road at times, the language in his SEPA bill – HB 2253 – was eventually incorporated into SB 6406 and approved by the Legislature. Governor Gregoire signed SB 6406 into law on May 2, 2012.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.