Expedited rulemaking to amend state SEPA rules

Rules to increase exemptions for housing construction

The 2022 Washington Legislature passed a Senate Bill 5818 amending the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to help address the urban housing crisis.

To ensure state SEPA rules align with the statute changes, lawmakers directed us to complete rulemaking by Dec. 31, 2022, using the state expedited rulemaking process.

Adopted in 1971, SEPA identifies possible environmental impacts resulting from decisions by local governments and state agencies. These decisions may be related to issuing permits for private projects, constructing public facilities, or adopting regulations, policies or plans.

More flexibility to address housing needs

Our rulemaking focuses on providing flexibility for cities to streamline the SEPA review process to enable them to increase housing supply and density.

The SEPA review process helps decision-makers, applicants and the public understand how a proposal will affect the natural and human environment. This information can be used to change a proposal to reduce environmental impacts when adverse impacts are identified.

However, certain types of governmental actions are identified as not significantly affecting the environment and exempt from SEPA review.

The rules we are changing would increase the exemption levels that local governments can incorporate into their SEPA policies and procedures for apartments, houses less than 1,500 square feet and attached homes such as duplexes. The rule amendments also reflect legislative directives dating back to 2017, adjust inconsistencies with SEPA, and fix typographical errors.

The updated SEPA rules are planned to take effect in mid-January 2023.