SEPA: The Washington State Environmental Policy Act

Thursday, January 4, 2024

What is SEPA?

The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) provides a way to identify possible environmental impacts that may result from governmental decisions.

From raising chickens in your yard to the City’s comprehensive plan, private projects, constructing public facilities, or adopting regulations, policies or plans, an acceptable SEPA report is generally required.

When a proposal is under environmental review, the public, community and business groups, local and tribal governments, state agencies, and other entities with expertise can review and comment on SEPA documents.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), reviewers have the opportunity to examine the environmental analysis done for a proposal and weigh in before agencies make any final permitting decisions.

During the review period, the general focus will be determining whether the SEPA documents address the following questions:
  • Are the SEPA documents complete and accurate?
  • Do they provide enough information to analyze likely environmental impacts?
  • Do they identify mitigation measures to avoid adverse impacts?
  • Is the evaluation and Determination of Significance supported by findings and conclusions?
  • Are there alternatives that address the proposal’s purpose and need?

It is more effective to comment during SEPA review than waiting until the permitting process starts. This will help the applicant and lead SEPA agency develop a more environmentally-sound project. 

Reviewing and commenting on SEPA documents provides the opportunity to:
  • Identify and resolve concerns early in the review process.
  • Identify required permits, applicable regulations, and permit conditions likely to be required.

Failure to comment during the SEPA process can limit future comments as well as an agency's ability to appeal a proposal, or use SEPA supplemental authority to condition or deny a permit-based environmental impacts.
Although some lead agencies consider late comments, most will not. Every effort should be made to submit comments while the comment period is open.


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