King County Ordinance Seeks to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The King County Department of Development and Environmental Services in consultation with AGC NAIOP MBA other business local governments the state and the public is developing an ordinance to implement a proposed policy that would allow King County to exercise substantive authority under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to condition or deny proposals that would have a significant adverse impact on the environment due to their greenhouse gas emissions.

DDES is seeking public comment on the proposal before it is transmitted to the County Council. Go to: http://your.kingcounty.gov/permits/codes/legnews.aspx for information on how to submit comments and for more details about the proposal. Comments are due by Friday September 12 2008 4:30 p.m.

See the Daily Journal of Commerce article at County moves toward stricter SEPA rules for industry comments.

King Countys action is likely to have statewide implications. The Department of Ecology is simultaneously taking steps to clarify how climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are addressed when state and local jurisdictions conduct environmental reviews and there is wide expectation that the King County proposal will have great influence on that process.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) state and local agencies must consider possible environmental impacts that may result from governmental decisions.

These decisions may be related to issuing permits for private projects constructing public facilities or adopting regulations policies or plans by state agencies counties cities ports and special districts such as a school and water districts.

Information gathered can be used to change a proposal to reduce likely impacts or to condition or deny a proposal when adverse environmental impacts are identified.

Ecology Director Jay Manning launched a public process addressing climate change to head off future legal concerns for those making decisions and those with proposals coming under environmental review.

Across the country many local and state governments are developing regulations and guidance to address climate change in their environmental review processes Manning said. Some are doing it because they failed to address climate change and were challenged in court. I believe it is in our best interest to act now to clarify our states SEPA rules and help prepare guidance regarding climate change.

Manning said if Ecology does not act soon We could face a similar ‘policy by litigation scenario here in Washington - and thats not a path to go down if we want to make sure that our policies regulations and guidance for climate change are as useful as possible to everyone.

State and local agencies must already consider the environmental effects of climate change and air emissions that may result from their decisions. However Manning said that the existing rule needs to be clearer to better address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions during environmental reviews.

As part of the state Climate Action Teams work this year Manning said a SEPA working group is working to help clarify SEPA rules and prepare important guidance information. In addition the Climate Action Team is addressing transportation green building and energy efficiency and waste reduction within other working groups and is an active participant in the Western Climate Initiative seeking to negotiate a Cap and Trade system.