Monday, October 12, 2009

UH Hawaii EIS Draft Recommendations

Based on input from our stakeholder process and literature review, the Study has identified the following five themes for recommendations:
The above links connect to the draft recommendations. Each theme contains subcategories such as triggers and exemptions under Applicability. If you would like to share your thoughts on any of these or review other people's comments, please click on any of the links above to leave a comment or email Scott Glenn or Nicole Lowen.

A downloadable and printable PDF is provided below for analog reviewing.

UH EIS Study Draft Recommendations

We encourage dialogue between contributors. For the comments, including your name or remaining anonymous are both options, but please be respectful of others' ideas. Any comments deemed offensive or irrelevant may be deleted. When leaving a comment, please choose "Anonymous" from the drop down box. The other options (LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, OpenID, and Name/URL) are available for those with those respective accounts and wish to have their comments linked to them. If you'd like to include your name, please type it into the message, but this is by no means necessary.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Draft Recommendations: Overview

The draft recommendations are organized into five themes: Applicability, Governance, Participation, Content, and Process. Applicability refers to the screening process used to determine which projects and actions should be subject to environmental review, and which should be exempted from the process. Governance recommendations discuss how best to allocate management, oversight, and support for the environmental review (ER) system. Participation focuses on recommendations for improving participation by both the public and agencies. Content includes recommendations for improving the substance of environmental review documents. Process addresses issues identified with how the process is implemented, including who should prepare and accept documents and shelf life.

Each theme has a set of recommendations. A particular recommendation may have sub-points, which are components that help explain the recommendation or a possible implementation strategy. The components are considered optional aspects of the recommendation and a combination of the components are possible to achieve the desired outcome. Several recommendations feature a set of alternative implementations to achieve the recommendation. In these cases, the alternatives may be mutually exclusive, but components of one alternative may be applicable to another alternative.

  1. Applicability
    1. Triggers
    2. Exemptions

  2. Governance

  3. Participation

  4. Content
    1. Cumulative Impacts
    2. Mitigation Measures
    3. Cultural Impact Assessment
    4. Climate Change
    5. Disaster Management

  5. Process
    1. Preparation
    2. Shelf Life
    3. Determinations and Acceptability

A downloadable PDF is included below for easy printing and reading in analog.

UH EIS Study Draft Recommendations

We encourage dialogue between contributors. For the comments, including your name or remaining anonymous are both options, but please be respectful of others' ideas. Any comments deemed offensive or irrelevant may be deleted. When leaving a comment, please choose "Anonymous" from the drop down box. The other options (LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, OpenID, and Name/URL) are available for those with those respective accounts and wish to have their comments linked to them. If you'd like to include your name, please type it into the message, but this is by no means necessary.

Draft Recommendations: I. Applicability

Applicability is the first of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar. This theme contains two subgroups: Triggers and Exemptions.

One pressing concern for Hawaii’s environmental review system is how best to use resources to focus on projects that should be undergoing environmental assessment, while not wasting resources on small projects that do not warrant the process. Hawaii’s current system of triggers and exemptions too often results in small projects having relatively insignificant impacts undergoing review, while some major private development projects escape the system. Furthermore, the existing system has accreted new triggers to meet evolving public needs without addressing the rationality of the system as a whole. Exemptions are often outdated, inconsistent among agencies, and lack transparency. In response to these identified issues, the Study recommends adopting a new screening system.

A. Triggers
  1. Environmental assessment should occur at the earliest practicable time.

  2. Allow applicants to proceed directly to conducting an Environmental Impact Statement when significant impacts are clearly present.

  3. For determining the eligibility of an action for HRS 343, three alternatives, A, B, and C, are proposed. Click the image next to each alternative to see a general process flow chart.

    1. Alternative A: Modify Existing Trigger System
      1. Triggers to remain as is

        1. General plan (#6)

        2. Reclassification of any land from preservation (#7)

        3. Waste-to-power (#9B)

        4. Landfill (#9C)

        5. Oil refinery (#9D)

      2. Triggers to be clarified
        1. Use of State or County lands or funds (#1)

        2. Any use within a shoreline area as defined in HRS 205A-21
          1. Shoreline setback

        1. Power generation facility (#9E)

          1. Relating to biofuels
          1. Relating to solar/wind power

      1. Triggers to be added

        1. Special Management Areas (SMA) (under shoreline setback (see above) or as own trigger)
        1. Size threshold
        1. Protected/sensitive areas

        2. Rapid development

        3. Use of state waters and ocean resources

        4. Large land use reclassifications

      1. Triggers to be removed
        1. Wastewater (#9A)

        2. Heliport (#8)

        3. Waikiki (#5)

      1. Reorganize existing exemption system (see Exemptions)

    1. Alternative B: Discretionary Approval Screen
    2. Alternative B Process Flow Chart
      1. Define “action” similar to NEPA

        1. “Major” federal action – may have a significant affect on the quality of the human environment

      2. HRS 343 should apply to all State/County actions and all private actions that require discretionary approval
      1. Include master plans, programmatic EAs, and tiering (where smaller project-focused EAs reference a master plan or programmatic EISs for general discussions)

      2. Use threshold determinations for non-exempt projects to determine whether to prepare EA or EIS

      3. Move HAR 11-200-12 into the statute as a framework for determining significance

      4. State/County and private actions that require discretionary approval, such as that by the Land Use Commission, the Board of Land and Natural Resources, or other decision-making bodies involving discretionary consent, would enter 343 at earliest discretionary permit hearing

      5. If an EIS is required, it would be submitted at the last discretionary permit hearing

      6. Incorporate public participation elements of HRS into the discretionary hearing process

      7. Reorganize existing exemption system (see Exemptions)

    1. Alternative C: Categorical Inclusion Screen
    2. Alternative C Process Flow Chart
      1. “Inclusion” refers to initial premise that actions should be included in ER

        1. In contrast to current system where focus is on which projects should be excluded from environmental review

      2. Two lists

        1. Type 1 – presumption of projects having significant impacts; proceed directly to preparing EIS document

        2. Type 2 – presumption of projects not having significant impacts (exempt)

      3. Unlisted projects default into the system; use threshold determinations or other criteria to determine whether to prepare EA or go directly to EIS

      4. Each agency is required to create a list through the rule-making process

        1. Requires public participation in determining which actions belong on which lists

        2. Determine relevant thresholds

      5. Public has right to judicial appeal if a listing is unacceptable

B. Exemptions
  1. Consolidate agency lists into one shared list available to all agencies.

    1. One list for State agencies and one list for each County

    2. Require periodic updating of shared exemption list; apply sunset date to exemption lists

    3. Use existing 10 categories to create single categorical exemption list

    4. Allow public comment on proposed new exemptions

  2. Update the exemption lists to reflect existing knowledge of significant environmental impacts, such as exempting

    1. Projects that have a beneficial impact on the ecology of the immediate surrounding environment

    2. Actions below a to-be-determined size threshold

    3. Small, local power generating projects

    4. Renovation of existing facilities on developed land

  3. Require exemptions above a certain threshold to be published on the OEQC website.

    1. Include in the OEQC Bulletin

    2. Threshold should be based on size or cost

    3. Provide for a limited period of public notice

    4. Allow for administrative or judicial review of exemption declarations

  4. Allow agencies greater discretion in declaring exemptions.

Draft Recommendations: II. Governance

Governance is the second of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar.

Stakeholders in interviews and the Town-Gown workshop recognize that effective governance is necessary for a functioning environmental review system. Concern has been expressed regarding the ineffectiveness of the Environmental Council, the lack of staffing and resources for OEQC to fulfill its statutory duties, and the marginalization of the Environmental Center. The Study recommends the following for improving the effectiveness of Hawaii’s governance system.
  1. Clarify lines of authority and duties for governance agencies (OEQC, Environmental Council, Environmental Center).

  2. Provide more funding, staff, and administrative support for governance agencies.

  3. Reallocate governance duties, responsibilities, and organizational relationships among the three entities.

    1. Alternative A: Clarify roles and responsibilities within the existing system and provide greater institutional support

    2. Alternative B: Adopt a governance model based on the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ): the Environmental Council advises the Governor directly; OEQC becomes staff for the Environmental Council

    3. Alternative C: Transfer some authority to the Counties

      1. County governments designate a county department to oversee County-level ER

      2. Create local Environmental Councils for each County

    4. Alternative D: Create a new, independent agency tasked with environmental stewardship and overseeing the environmental review process

Draft Recommendations: III. Participation

Participation is the third of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar.

Both public and agency participation are essential to an effective environmental review system. Courts are hesitant to rule on the content of ER documents, tending to focus more on procedural issues. Thus, it is necessary to have well-informed reviewers and robust public participation to ensure that environmental impacts, mitigation proposals, and alternatives analyses are given appropriate consideration. Capacity building through public and agency education and training will help to increase transparency and accountability, while decreasing potential bias in documents. Furthermore, project proponents should seek input from stakeholders as early as possible in order to identify and address potential issues in advance. Electronic communications and internet-based participation should be incorporated in the EIS process to further these goals.
  1. Use the internet / electronic communication to increase accessibility and efficiency. OEQC should provide guidance on integrating electronic communication into the process.

    1. Clarify if documents can be distributed in PDF format rather than as a paper document

    2. Require searchable PDFs

  2. Improve OEQC (or new dept.) website.

    1. Create email lists/RSS feeds for notification of actions based on district or type

    2. Establish online comment and response submission process

    3. Develop a centralized information management system (database) under OEQC

    4. Model website design on successful designs of other states (e.g. WA, NY)

  3. Improve consultation with both agencies and the public through early scoping in EAs.

  4. Amend HRS 343-5(b) to allow flexibility to extend the public comment/agency review period for EAs and EISs.

    1. Allow more flexibility at the lead agency’s discretion to extend the period for public comment

  5. Amend the statute to adopt the NEPA process for responding to public comments.

    1. NEPA 1503.4 – agency response to public comments

    2. CEQ 40 Questions, #29A guidance for responding to comments

  6. Enhance the quality of inter-agency participation in review of documents.

    1. Require regular agency staff training

      1. Develop certification process for staff, including preparers and reviewers

    2. Appoint a lead/dedicated staff member to oversee quality of commenting and facilitate inter-agency/internal processes

    3. Require agencies to develop internet tools for the ER process

    4. Improve OEQC website (see #2)

  7. Develop guidance on more effective public outreach based on NEPA 1506.6.

  8. Recognize central role of the Bulletin and encourage its wider distribution.

Draft Recommendations: IV. Content

Content is the fourth of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar. This theme contains five subgroups: Cumulative Impacts, Mitigation Measures, Cultural Impact Assessment, Climate Change, and Disaster Management.

While the focus of environmental review often is on procedural issues, the original intent of the law is to disclose objective information for public consideration and to assist government decision making. Standards of quality for content vary within documents and among jurisdictions. The Study recommends the following in order to further fulfill the original intent of Environmental Review and better standardize content requirements and quality.
  1. Improve quality of review and provide better guidance to improve quality of content (see: Participation and Governance).

  2. Link to State, County, and community level plans, policies, and regulations to better situate the EIS process in a meaningful and useful context.

  3. Clarify that the goal of impact assessment is to encourage project and plan designs that results in no net increase in negative impacts.

A. Cumulative Impacts
  1. Strengthen HRS 343 to require cumulative impact assessment for significant actions including plans and programs so as to encourage greater efficiency such as through tiering.

    1. Redefine “action” in the statute and rules to include master plans, statewide or regional programs, development plans, and multi-phase development projects

    2. Continue to exempt feasibility studies

    3. Add to HRS 343 Findings and Purposes, “One of the purposes of this chapter is to better integrate with planning”

    4. Write into the statute the goal of cumulative impacts assessment is to provide sufficient information to the regulatory agency so that the end result is no net increase of negative impacts

    5. Write into rules: “When conducting cumulative impact assessment, refer to the OEQC guidance document on conducting CIA”

    6. Develop guidance on assessing priority environmental indicators for cumulative impacts

      1. Water quantity

      2. Water quality

      3. Traffic

      4. Energy

      5. Solid waste

      6. Sewage

      7. Endemic, threatened, and endangered species

  2. Establish best practices for content and methodology through guidance.

    1. Establish standard methodology for data collection

    2. OEQC, UH, and/or private consultants develop protocols for measurements in certain key areas

  3. Create state and/or regional online database for EIS data to enhance cumulative impacts assessment and track changes in environmental quality over time.

B. Mitigation Measures
  1. Do not allow mitigated FONSIs unless an enforcement system is in place.

  2. Require a summary of impacts, proposed mitigation, feasibility & associated permits in the EIS.

    1. Encourage incorporation by reference for mitigations required by State/County law or regulation

  3. Implement post-EIS reporting and monitoring.

    1. Alternative A: Use a Record of Decision process similar to NEPA to require implementation and require all EISs do annual reports

    2. Alternative B: All EISs have to do annual reports plus random/screen-based auditing of mitigation

    3. Alternative C: No annual reports, random audits

C. Cultural Impact Assessment
  1. Cultural impact assessment is a broadly supported element of the HRS 343 process.

  2. OEQC should provide guidance on clearer definition of “cultural impact” and “traditional cultural practice”.

  3. OEQC must establish a database for cultural impact assessment; allow reports/interviews to be reused in different documents. (See: Cumulative Impacts)

  4. OEQC create checklists for both preparers and reviews; should be general enough to apply to multiple geographic areas and address natural resources as cultural resources.

  5. OEQC re-examine the list of cultural experts and collaborate with OHA, SHPD, and other relevant agencies to clarify to determine who qualifies as a cultural expert and what that expert’s role is.

  6. Encourage more guidance on further defining cultural practices of the State.

D. Climate Change
  1. Alternative A: Incorporate climate change into the current EIS system.

    1. Require analysis by certain projects having known significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions

    2. Starting with sea level rise, create zones based on identified climate change impacts

      1. Require scenario analysis of likelihood of impacts

      2. Address likely impacts in both mitigation measures and alternatives analysis

    3. Use zones to require resiliency/vulnerability analysis

  2. Alternative B: Do not require addressing climate change in EIS; address through planning and policy.

E. Disaster Management
  1. Disaster management should be addressed in EISs.

    1. Alternative A: Require OEQC to develop guidance for additional environmental review for disaster recovery actions

    2. Alternative B: Do not require addressing more disaster management issues in an EIS than is already addressed

  2. OEQC develop guidance for and encourage conducting a rapid environmental assessment for projects related to state declared emergencies.

  3. A concern identified through the stakeholder interviews was the absence of environmental oversight during emergency declarations; clarification of the length of time and degree of the governor’s authority was desired.

Draft Recommendations: V. Process

Process is the fifth of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar. This theme contains three subgroups: Preparation, Shelf Life, and Determinations and Acceptability.

Many issues have been identified linked to procedural aspects of the ER process. This study examined “shelf life”, or how long an EIS remains valid, acceptability, EA determinations, and preparation. One clear theme that emerged was a need to reduce potential bias in the ER process. Bias can occur both in document preparation when impacts are not objectively presented and through the acceptance process when an agency can accept their own document or issue their own FONSI. An examination of shelf life revealed a broad agreement that documents cannot remain valid indefinitely. Concern also was expressed about the efficiency of the process, and the perception that it is overly complex and takes considerable time and money to complete. Recommendations focus on trying to strike a balance between these concerns.

A. Preparation
  1. Improve the preparation process by increasing review and minimizing real or perceived conflicts of interest.

    1. Alternative A: Strengthen the EA and EIS content requirements under the rules 11-200-10 and 11-200-17 to require a more comprehensive analysis

      1. Strengthen the role of the Environmental Center as a commenter

      2. Encourage agencies to be stricter of the documents they review by providing clear guidance on reviewing requirements

    2. Alternative B: Create an independent system by either having a third party chosen or an agency that prepares all environmental documents, proponent pays for preparation

B. Shelf Life
  1. EISs should have a review for validity after a period of time or significant change in project or environment.

    1. Alternative A: Adopt NEPA regulation 1502.9c and CEQ Question #32, which leaves the decision to prepare a supplemental document in the discretion of the agencies and documents are presumed stale after 5 years

    2. Alternative B: Require a supplemental EA/EIS focusing on significant changes to the project or impacts every 3 years until the project is completed

    3. Alternative C: Clarify existing law on supplemental EISs

C. Determinations and Acceptability
  1. Improve the quality of agency review of EA determinations and expand oversight role of governance for EIS acceptability.

    1. Random audits of agency determinations of EAs by OEQC

    2. Concurrence on acceptability decisions by OEQC or designated county agency

    3. Establish a pre-judicial administrative review process for challenges to EA determination and EISs acceptance decisions (e.g. hearing officer)

  2. Provide better guidance to agencies on application of significance criteria for making determinations and acceptance decisions.

  3. Adopt a Record of Decision (ROD) requirement similar to NEPA.