Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Best Practices: Preliminary Findings

Research Questions:
Best practices have been developed for many areas of environmental management.
  1. Are you aware of any best practices (industry standards) for preparing environmental review documents?
  2. Does current practice for preparing environmental review documents in Hawaii reflect those best practices?
Stakeholder Interview Comments
Generally, stakeholders responded that best practices exist, though not always applied in Hawaii. Interviewees recommended adopting proven practices from other States, NEPA, or other countries, though some cautioned that such practices might need to be adapted to Hawaii’s unique environment. Some even noted that best practices of the past have been lost.

To develop and encourage best practices, the following actions were most commonly suggested:
  1. Clarify existing rules, guidelines, process, and content requirements. Hawaii has decades of experience with EISs. This experience should serve as a foundation. OEQC should select past documents as models.
  2. Make OEQC’s Guidebook the best practices standard for Hawai. The Guidebook is already the standard that many preparers use. OEQC should continuously update the Guidebook with the latest best practices. Also, include a standard outline for EAs/EISs and example checklists, matrices, etc.
  3. Adopt federal established best practices and guidance. Examples include requiring documents to be “reader friendly,” providing a State version of CEQ’s “40 Most Asked Questions,” or having each State agency develop its own manual and good technical guidance standard.
  4. Certify preparers for EIS work. People should lose their license if they misrepresent information in the EIS document or during the process. This will ensure preparers do their best.
  5. A specific practice often mentioned was to consult the community well before starting a project. By the time a project reaches the environmental review stage, many aspects of the project are already set. By consulting the community well ahead of time, the likelihood of community support and minimal environmental impacts increases.
Stakeholder Workshop Results
Session 1: Review of Results
The review of findings workshop overwhelmingly supported making OEQC’s Guidebook the best practices standard. Reviewers also supported the specific practice of consulting the community before starting a project. Clarifying rules, guidelines, process, and content requirements received some support as well and certifying preparers for EIS work received similar levels of support.

Session 2: Discussion Group and Report Back
In discussion, participants recommended updating the Guidebook and standards. Furthermore, they recommended clarifying the intent of the EIS system, with greater integration and coordination among agencies. A central agency to coordinate the process is needed.

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