The State Environmental Policy Act, also known as SEPA, helps identify the potential environmental effects of projects and government decisions within Washington. SEPA requires "lead agencies" — typically city and county governments and other local agencies — to collect and submit information about their environmental reviews to Ecology.
Every year, we receive more than 6,000 SEPA records. To provide better transparency about government environmental reviews and decisions, the information is posted to the SEPA Register — an online database that catalogs all SEPA information for all projects occurring within Washington since 2000.
Streamlining the reporting process
As a part of the SEPA reporting process for many years, lead agencies sent their SEPA documents and information to us, and our staff then entered the information into the SEPA Register. We've created a new online tool to streamline this process.
On July 20, 2021, we launched a new online web portal giving SEPA lead agencies the ability to enter SEPA records and documents directly into the SEPA Register. After submissions are reviewed by our staff, they're published in the register.
While lead agencies will no longer mail or email their records to Ecology, the public will still be able to access all SEPA records and documents posted on the SEPA Register. By streamlining the process for loading SEPA documents, the new system affords lead agencies the opportunity to enter SEPA records on a timeline that works best for them, while also ensuring public transparency.
Focusing on technical assistance and training
As part of rolling out the new system, a small number of users were selected to test and use the system in real time for projects happening in their communities. We used feedback from these early users to finalize the portal and prepare it for statewide use.
Besides giving lead agencies more flexibility, the new system will give our staff more time to focus on reviewing submitted documents and providing technical assistance and training for lead agencies. In addition, lead agencies will have more certainty about the process through email alerts when their records are received and loaded into the SEPA Register.
During the transition period, we're helping lead agencies learn how to use our new web portal system by providing online training and user guides. We are excited to share these improvements, and continue to look for ways to help lead agencies work through the SEPA process.