Public comment sought on draft EIS rule changes

The Maui News – Public comments are sought on the State Environmental Council’s preliminary draft of revised administrative rules for the preparation of environmental impact statements.

The draft aims 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 and supplemental EISs.

• How to respond to comments.

• How to do combined federal and state EISs.

The administrative 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,” said Joseph Shacat, the council’s chairman. “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. . . . 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.”

The Environmental Council makes rules for preparing environmental impact statements under Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 343.

EIS rules have been used to delay or stop proposed developments.

The EIS process is detailed in Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 11-200. The current rules are available on the Office of Environmental Quality Control website at health.hawaii.gov/oeqc, and the draft language can be downloaded directly from oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/Laws/2017-07-27-Report-Prelim-Rules-Revisions-Draft.pdf.

“This is the start of a conversation,” said Scott Glenn, director of the OEQC and vice chairman of the council. “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.”

Following the release of the preliminary draft rules, the council will refine changes before conducting formal public hearings.

For more information on the Environmental Council, go to health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/environmental-council/.

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