By Don Russell, Lakewood
SEPA stands for the State of Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act. The purpose of this Act is to: (1) Encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between humankind and the environment; (2) promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment; and (3) stimulate the health and welfare of human beings.
SEPA policy prescribes that governmental agencies shall interpret and administer the policies, regulations, and laws of the state of Washington in accordance with the policies set forth in SEPA and the following rules: (1) Prepare environmental documents that are concise, clear, and to the point and are supported by evidence that the necessary environmental analyses have been made; and (2) encourage public involvement in decisions that significantly affect environmental quality.
It is the duty and function of the Department of Ecology to assure that all Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) address a single course of proposed action, are simple, uniform, and as short as practical and that they include: (1) The environmental impact of the proposed action; (2) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented; (3) alternatives to the proposed action; (4) the relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity; (5) any irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented, and of paramount importance that state environmental policy act rules be accorded substantial deference in the preparation of environmental impact statements.
The CalPortland North Parcel mining proposal Final Impact Statement prepared by DuPont’s SEPA Responsible Official and approved by DuPont’s Hearing Examiner’s is not in compliance with the above cited SEPA policy and rules and the Department of Ecology is complicit in DuPont SEPA Responsible Official’s and Hearing Examiner’s acts of non-compliance with SEPA policy and rules.
The North Parcel mining Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) contains reference to two dissimilar courses of proposed action, i.e., proposed mining dry gravel in the North Parcel and mining saturated (wet) gravel in the South Parcel as “similar actions” which obviously they are not. So why was this done? It was done because the 2011 Settlement Agreement signed by DOE stipulated that: “…the Parties will support an environmental compliance process that prepares a single supplemental SEPA document that analyzes impacts of both the North and South Parcel mining…”
Furthermore the 2011 Settlement Agreement stipulates that the Parties to the Agreement will: “…support CalPortland’s mining the North and South Parcels subject to the various restriction in this Agreement and compliance with existing laws and regulations“. The inclusion of two dissimilar actions in one environmental impact statement is contrary to SEPA policy and rules.
The inclusion of 2011 Settlement Agreement language in an environmental impact statement (EIS) that is to deal solely with the significant environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, including mitigation measures that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance environmental quality of a single proposed [North Parcel] action is not in compliance with SEPA policy and rules.
In regard to mitigation the 2011 Settlement Agreement stipulates that CalPortland and the Environmental Caucus (a signatory of the Agreement) “…agree that CalPortland’s commitments under this Agreement with respect of the Restoration Plan shall be deemed adequate mitigation of all direct and indirect impacts of mining [the North and South Parcels]” In regard to this Settlement Agreement provision the prescribed mitigation for any environmental impact of dewatering the Vashon aquifer and mining the South Parcel will be determined solely by CalPortland and the Environmental Caucus without any significant involvement or input from the citizens of DuPont whose health and welfare will be most impacted by the mitigation determined solely by CalPortland and the Environmental Caucus.
The final caveat of the 2011 Settlement Agreement signed by DOE states: “Based upon information and analysis the Governmental Parties believe they can issue permits [to mine the North and South Parcels] consistent with this Agreement.”
The entire SEPA process for the mining of the North and South parcel has been managed by CalPortland, the Environmental Caucus, DOE and the City of DuPont’s Mayor, City Administrator and Planning Manager to severely limited and marginalized citizen involvement and input in this [CalPortland, Environmental, DOE] prescribed process contrary to SEPA’s policy requiring “…public involvement in decisions that significantly affect environmental quality.”
All of the above has been brought to the Department of Ecology’s (as well as several Legislators’) attention to DOE’s conflicted and compromised role as both a regulatory agency and as a signatory of the 2011 Settlement Agreement that pledges DOE’s support for CalPortland’s mining the North and South Parcels as a “similar action”. A representative of the Office of Attorney General’s office has advised that a citizen’s only recourse to address this alleged abuse of SEPA policy and rules is to file a law suit. The ironic part of such an action is that the citizen filing such a law suit would be opposed in court proceedings by lawyers from the Office of Attorney General’s Department of Ecology.
What I cite above is a good example of why citizens have so little confidence that governmental regulatory agencies will apply and enforce exiting environmental regulations as the law prescribes and have such a low esteem for elected representatives who fail to exercise oversight to see that governmental regulatory agencies carry out the intent of environmental regulations and follow legislatively mandated policy and rules.