We are beginning a study on how to improve environmental review and permitting processes for siting low-carbon energy projects in Washington. These clean energy projects can help the state achieve future greenhouse gas limits mandated under state law. This study will be used to develop recommendations for a report to the state Legislature.
The study will help support good in-state jobs, contribute to low-carbon economic development, reduce potential adverse impacts to the environment and local communities, and preserve tribal consultation and treaty rights.
The legislative intent of the study is to "provide increased clarity on areas in the state that may be suitable for siting projects that have a lower potential for negative environmental impacts, especially to highly impacted communities as defined in RCW 19.405.020 and identify strategies for minimizing and mitigating negative environmental impacts where possible."
We're working in partnership with the state Department of Commerce and the Governor’s office, and coordinating with other agencies. We'll provide multiple opportunities for tribal consultation and to hear input and feedback from businesses and industry, environmental and labor organizations, ports, environmental justice entities, utilities, local governments, and the public.
In December 2021, we submitted an interim legislative report about the approach for the study and the people involved. It includes issues to be considered and built upon in the siting study and an overview of siting work in Washington. We also published a report with an overview of state siting efforts and agencies to provide further information.
Our project timeline outlines when we anticipate major actions will occur. This multi-faceted approach will allow us to gather input from interested parties throughout the process. Starting in fall 2021 and continuing in 2022, we will:
- Engage stakeholders through advisory board meetings.
- Consult and engage interested tribal governments and offer tribal forums and informational sessions.
- Coordinate with agencies through interagency meetings.
We intend to offer public informational meetings in 2022 and people can provide input using our online comment form at any time and the comments submitted can be viewed online.
In addition to the study, we'll be developing a Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tool prototype in 2022. This will show how information could be provided to help with project siting discussions and decisions.
The study will be used by Ecology, in partnership with Commerce, to develop a final report to the Legislature, due Dec. 1, 2022, that will include recommendations for improving permitting processes, siting decisions, and any future additional studies or actions.
Focus of the study
The study will identify systemic issues related to:
- Siting industrial clean-energy projects
- Environmental review and permitting processes
- Tribal treaty rights and cultural resources processes
- Consideration of highly-impacted communities
Public and stakeholder engagement and tribal consultation
We are developing plans for consulting with tribes and engaging with stakeholders and the public. We plan to:
- Establish an Advisory Board with representatives from stakeholders and tribes
- Hold tribal forums
- Hold public informational meetings
We also plan to develop a prototype mapping tool to show how this information could be used.