Council sets hearings for environmental review rule changes

The changes would provide more clarity and an orderly path for preparing of EIS, EA documents

The state Department of Health’s Environmental Council will hold nine public hearings statewide — four in Maui County — next month on proposed changes to environmental impact statement rules.

The council proposes to repeal a Hawaii administrative rules chapter governing preparation of an environmental impact statement and environmental assessment, also known by the acronyms EIS and EA, and replacing it with a new chapter. The changes would provide more clarity and an orderly path for preparing the documents.

Maui County hearings have been set for:

• May 24, 3 to 5 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center in Kaunakakai.

• May 30, 3 to 5 p.m. at the Lanai High and Elementary School cafeteria in Lanai City.

• May 31, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Wailuku State Office Building.

• May 31, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria in Kahului.

“This is a major milestone for the state of Hawaii,” said council Chairwoman Puananionaona “Onaona” Thoene. “The council has been working on these revisions for most of 2017. The updated rules have been prepared with an enormous amount of thoughtful and helpful public input, and a high level of council discourse.”

The last time the rules were updated was in 1996. In 2007, there was an amendment to include an exemption for acquiring land for affordable housing.

The proposed revision would update and “substantially revise” rules for the environmental review at state and county levels. The council’s announcement of the hearings says the rule changes would ensure that environmental, economic and technical concerns are “given appropriate consideration” in decision-making under state law.

“The administrative rules are the cornerstone of our environmental review process,” Thoene said. “At times, they may have been less than clear. This revision does basically two things: it provides a much more orderly path for preparing environmental assessments and environmental impact statements; and it reflects, based on the experiences from over 20 years of environmental reviews, the need to bring those rules into the 21st century.”

Proposed changes include reorganizing chapter sections, improving existing language and adding new sections to clarify the environmental review process.

The revisions address the 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 EISes and supplemental EISes; how to respond to comments; how to assure a path for substantive public input; and how to do a combined federal and state EIS.

“These revised rules also incorporate today’s issues, like climate change, by incorporating greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise into the criteria for not allowing an exemption or requiring an environmental impact statement,” said Scott Glenn, director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The proposed amendments may be viewed at the state Department of Health Kinau Hale building at 1250 Punchbowl St. or at the Office of Environmental Quality Control at 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702, in Honolulu. Office hours are between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The amendments are available for inspection at health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/rules-update; or available by request to oeqchawaii@doh.hawaii.gov. Hard copies will be mailed upon request with a prepayment of a 5-cent per page copy fee and postage. To request a mailed copy, call (808) 586-4185. The agency’s email and phone number also may be used to request a special accommodation for in-person testimony at least 10 business days before the hearing.

Written public testimony may be sent to: Attn: EIS Rules, 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702, Honolulu 96813 or, via email, to oeqchawaii@doh.hawaii.gov.

The deadline for written testimony is 4:30 p.m. June 5.

COMMENTS