Friday, June 12, 2009

Workshop 4: Determinations and Acceptability Voting Results

Below is a summary of the dots for Workshop 4: Acceptability and Determinations.


Are agencies making a proper finding of no significant impact?

Agencies are making a proper finding of no significant impact. (4: 1Red dot, 2Green dot, 1Blue dot)
  • Agencies are sensitive to controversy and try to err on the side of caution. (2: 1Red dot, 1Blue dot)
  • Agencies act in good faith; mistakes are unintended. (2Red dot)
  • Usually, except when under political pressure. (2Red dot)
Agencies are not making a proper finding.
  • Incentives are against finding significant impacts. (11: 3Red dot, 7Green dot, 1Blue dot)
  • Agencies attempt to segment projects to get FONSIs.
  • Agencies “mitigate down” to a FONSI. (3Green dot)
  • Impacts (cumulative, visual) are not properly considered in determinations. (4Green dot)
How can the system be improved?

OEQC should play a stronger role. (8: 6Red dot, 1Green dot, 1Blue dot)
  • Define ‘significance.’ (2Red dot)
  • Develop criteria for agencies and train staff. (3: 2Red dot, 1Green dot)
  • Publish best practices.
  • Do 5-year audit of agency determinations.
Allow proponents to go to EISs directly (skip EA). (19: 5Red dot, 1Green dot, 13Blue dot)
  • If there is controversy or obvious significant impacts, an EA wastes time.
  • Most agencies think they already know if a project requires an EA or EIS.
  • EAs look more like EISs to avoid re-contracting and save time/money.
Offer alternative dispute resolution instead of court challenge. (8Red dot)
  • If a FONSI is improperly issued, then the burden is on the public to take it to court.
  • “An army of lawyers” is necessary to resolve these challenges.
  • Offer more than choices than FONSI or full EIS.

Increase transparency and oversight.
  • Allow community more time to review documents. (2Green dot)
  • Educate political appointees and stakeholders about the process.
  • Allow for 3rd party oversight (e.g. OEQC). (Green dot)
Comments and Concerns
  • The burden is on the public to challenge improper actions by government agencies.
  • “The public thinks an EA is nothing, do not trust FONSIs, and believe an EIS is the only way to address impacts or influence project development.”
  • Not all significant impacts can be mitigated. People want projects stopped, not mitigated. (4: 1Red dot, 2Green dot, 1Blue dot)
  • Agencies have a double standard for agency actions versus private ones.
  • Screen out temporary impacts. (2: 1Red dot, 1Blue dot)
  • The Land Use Commission, agencies, and consultants do not follow the law, only past practice. (Red dot)

Should an agency accept its own document?

Yes, agencies are responsible and accountable. (19: 6Red dot, 2Green dot, 11Blue dot)
  • The accepting authority is still accountable after making a determination. (Blue dot)
  • Acceptability is more about process than content.
  • Agencies are very aware of a perceived conflict of interest.
  • It is unlikely a perceived conflict of interest can be removed entirely.
  • Public challenge and judicial review make the process transparent.
No, agencies should not accept documents they prepare. (18: 3Red dot, 13Green dot, 2Blue dot)
  • The perception of conflict of interest is too great.
  • There is a real conflict of interest. (Green dot)
  • An agency is not rigorous enough for its own documents.
This is only an issue for EAs.
  • The Governor or Mayor accepts EISs; it is within their authority to delegate acceptance to whomever he or she deems appropriate.
What are ways to improve the acceptance process?

The system works well as it is.

Increase the role of OEQC to monitor the process, accept documents, make binding recommendations, or be able to veto determinations. (7: 1Red dot, 3Green dot, 3Blue dot)

Adopt NEPA or other States practices. (9: 2Red dot, 7Blue dot)

Should there be further administrative oversight?

No, further oversight is not needed.
  • The process will become more onerous and create confusions.
  • There is enough transparency and oversight already. (Red dot)
  • It will create perverse incentives.
Yes, more oversight improves agency acceptance practices.
  • Allow 3rd party review (OEQC, the Auditor’s Office, UH, peer). (6: 3Green dot, 3Blue dot)
  • Adopt a model similar to California or NEPA. (Red dot)
  • Have a checklist to consult with other agencies beyond the comment/response process.
Comments and Concerns
  • OEQC doesn’t have enough expertise to review all agencies’ documents. (6: 4Red dot, 2Blue dot)
  • 3rd parties do not have the expertise and will meddle with agency missions. (Red dot)
  • One agency shouldn’t have too much power or it becomes political.
  • Involve more partnerships between public, private, and community stakeholders. (2Red dot)

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