New EIS, EA procedures: Public hearings for rule changes set this month

HILO — A complete rewrite of the procedures that agencies and developers use for environmental assessments and environmental impact statements is the subject of public hearings later this month in Hilo and Kona.

Some of the changes are housekeeping in nature, such as to modernize language, allow for more electronic access and simplify the process so an applicant can follow the rules start-to-finish, said Ron Terry, a Big Island environmental consultant and member of the state Environmental Council, which drafted the rule changes.

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Others will allow more public input, by recording the public’s oral testimony and keeping the audio recording as a permanent record with the application. There will also be early opportunity for public input through scoping meetings at the very beginning of the review process.

“We wanted to make the rules clear, more effective and fairer,” Terry said Monday.

Rules are also being changed to comply with state law, such as requirements to take climate change and cultural concerns into account when developing land.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years the rules are being rewritten. The project was taken on after the public formally petitioned the Environmental Council in 2011 to update the rules.

“We wanted to modernize the rules to make it easier for the public to participate and incorporate emerging issues like climate change,” Scott Glenn, director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, said in a statement. “We’ve tried a friendlier approach to capture the balance between development and the environment.”

The rule changes (http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/Laws/v1.0-Proposed-HAR-11-200.1-Rules-Ramseyer_Draft.pdf) and rationale statement (http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/Laws/v1.0-Proposed-HAR-11-200.1-Rules-Rationale_Draft.pdf) provide indepth detail on the process.

Another change adds a “green sheet” component for agencies to decide whether a proposed activity is covered by an existing environmental review document, the level of review necessary for a proposed action and whether a proposed action requires additional review.

It also requires agency exemption lists to be categorized into two parts to allow agencies to designate certain activities as de minimis and therefore not requiring documentation, compared to those activities requiring documentation and publication in the periodic bulletin.

The public hearings on Hawaii Island are set for 9-11 a.m. May 22 at the state Environmental Health conference room, 1582 Kamehameha Ave. and 5-7 p.m. at council chambers in the West Hawaii Civic Center.

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Meetings are also planned on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.

Anyone unable to attend may send written testimony to Attn: EIS Rules, 235 South Beretania Street, Suite 702, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 or email to: oeqchawaii@doh.hawaii.gov. Written testimony must be received by 4:30 p.m. June 5.