Saturday, October 10, 2009

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.

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