Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Macee Utecht


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of a proposed action that may significantly affect the environment. In addition to outlining the important pieces of NEPA, this article explores the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Washington’s state-equivalent to NEPA. Established in 1971 and modeled after NEPA, SEPA requires that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared for any governmental project proposal that significantly affects the environment. Currently under both state and federal law, there is no rule or guidance that instructs project applicants on how to calculate greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that satisfies statutory requirements. The Washington Department of Ecology rescinded its only guidance in 2016 with regard to adequate greenhouse gas calculation to be included in an EIS. As a result, project applicants must make an educated guess and rely on previous case law and administrative decisions when measuring greenhouse gas emissions for their EIS. The lack of a clear, uniform rule under SEPA will continue to foster confusion about how to calculate the direct and indirect effects of greenhouse gas emissions for an EIS. This article argues that Washington’s Department of Ecology—or any other lead agency— should establish a rule on how to quantify, analyze, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under SEPA.

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