Saturday, October 10, 2009

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.

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