Agency Initiates Work on Climate Change and Reviews

The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking to clarify how climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are addressed when state and local jurisdictions conduct environmental reviews.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act, 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.

In a letter to more than 1,000 state and local jurisdictions, Ecology Director Jay Manning says he is launching 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 state's SEPA rules and help prepare guidance regarding climate change."

As part of the state Climate Action Team's work this year, Manning said a SEPA working group will be established to help clarify rules and prepare important guidance information.

Depending on the working group's recommendations, the agency could begin rulemaking in early 2009 to address climate change.

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