State Environmental Council Updating EIS Rules
The State Environmental Council has released a preliminary draft of revisions to the state environmental impact statement administrative rules. The rules were last updated in 1996, although an exemption for acquiring land for affordable housing was added in 2007.
“This is a major milestone for us. The Environmental Council initiated the process of revising the rules in 2012, but the volunteer board lacked the support and resources necessary to complete the effort at that time. Thanks to the diligent work of numerous volunteers, as well as Governor Ige’s administration, this preliminary draft will provide a useful starting point for us as a council to engage agencies and the public. I’m really proud of the effort my colleagues put into making this first draft, and I’m looking forward to getting the public’s feedback and proceeding to the next step,” said Joseph Shacat, Council Chair.
The Environmental Council is responsible for making rules for preparing EISs under chapter 343, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. The EIS process is described in detail in Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules Chapter 11-200.
The preliminary draft helps to clarify:
- roles and responsibilities at various stages of the EIS process;
- submittals and deadlines using electronic communication;
- when an exemption is appropriate and the role of exemption lists;
- how to proceed to directly preparing an EIS;
- how to do programmatic EISs and supplemental EISs;
- how to respond to comments; and
- how to do combined federal and state EISs, among other things.
“This is the start of a conversation. We are focused on modernizing these 20-year-old rules and making them clearer so people who participate in the EIS process have a better sense of their roles and responsibilities,” said Scott Glenn, Director of the OEQC and Vice Chair of the Council.
Following the release of this preliminary draft, the Council will continue to refine the language before conducting formal public hearings pursuant to chapter 91, HRS. In the meantime, the public has the opportunity to offer comments to the Council at its publicly noticed meetings. The Council normally holds its meetings on the second Tuesday of every month.
The Environmental Council has several critical functions that affect the environment and development across Hawaiʻi. The Council is a liaison between the Director of the OEQC and the general public. The OEQC’s Director Scott Glenn regularly advises Gov. Ige on environmental matters. The Council also monitors the progress of the state in meeting its environmental goals through the publication of its annual report on the state of Hawaiʻi’s environment. It creates the administrative rules for Hawaiʻi’s EIS process and vets state and county agency lists for actions that can be considered exempt from having to prepare EISs or environmental assessments.