There is discussion at the Legislature on the role of government in the environmental review process and how it can be streamlined. Everyone wants reform, but the question is how it is done and what unintended consequences could there be.
One of those unintended consequences that may happen is less oversight, accountability, and transparency.
House File 1 and 20 go hand in hand and have to be read together to see what the broad policy change being proposed is. The proposals have language that will allow for the environmental impact statement(EIS) to be done by a third party. In HF 1, the draft EIS could be done by the proposer of the project that triggers the EIS process. This could be an unintended consequence.
Let’s say a private entity wants to expand in the community. Under the proposal, the private entity could do the EIS, give the EIS report to the government for review. A member of the public or a group wants to see how the report came to its conclusions. The public parties want to see the underlying data and supporting information of the EIS. The government does not have the supporting information, the private party has it. Therefore the information is not public and not available to the people.
The public could not see the supporting documentation and how the EIS was done, processed, and how the document came to its conclusions.
Currently, it seems that a public entity does the EIS either itself or contracts out to someone to do it, but either way the data is government data. In most instances, if not all, the government will have the supporting and underlying data. Most of that data is public with very few exceptions.
It is important our state agencies and government entities are accountable to the people. The legislation should be very clear that all information and data in the EIS process will remain as it has been available and accessible to the public.