Winter 2003-06 EQB to revisit the environmental impact statement
EQB to revisit the environmental impact statement
The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board announced plans to overhaul the environmental review requirement called for by the Public Policy Environmental Act, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 12, § 1121, and its implementing regulation (“Regulation on the Presentation, Review and Processing of Environmental Documents”-No. 6026), in light of several controversial judicial decisions and the agency’s current standardized review procedures.
EQB Resolution No. R-02-21-1 of September 22, 2002, sets the stage for the agency’s proposed revision of the environmental review mechanism of Article 4(c) of the law, which mandates that all governmental entities comply with the Commonwealth’s environmental public policy, take into account environmental considerations in their decision-making processes, and submit a detailed written statement for decisions which have significant impact on the environment through an environmental impact statement. Article 4(c) is essentially the same as Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act, applicable to major actions by federal agencies. However, Article 4(c) applies to any action by a Commonwealth agency or instrumentality that significantly affects the environment.
In general, EQB Resolution No. R-02-22-1 calls for the following tasks to be performed or revisited by the EQB, as the Commonwealth agency charged with compliance with the requirements of Article 4(c), in order to fine-tune the way that the environmental impact review process is carried out in Puerto Rico:
* Commence an examination of the applicable environmental review regulation, in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act and EQB’s Administrative Hearing Regulation. Comments will be sought from government officials and concerned citizens having the necessary experience or knowledge to contribute in this endeavor.
* Request that Section 1 of Act No. 311 of September 2, 2000, be amended, in order to transfer to those agencies having primary jurisdiction or the required expertise, the responsibility of acting as lead agency in proceedings before the EQB concerning private projects in which the Planning Board intervenes in the location consultation process.
* Request that Section 2 of Act No. 311 of September, 2, 2000, be stricken, so that private citizens secure the auspices of a lead agency, in order to process the environmental documents of a private project instead of approaching the EQB directly with the necessary environmental documentation.
* Prepare and promulgate guidelines that address the cumulative impacts of proposed actions.
* Evaluate the need for legislative or judicial action to review the character and nature of the current environmental impact review process, in order to advance the notion that final decisions over a proposed action are to be taken by the lead agency and that such decisions are subject to administrative reconsideration and/or judicial review, as opposed to the observations, comments and/or the recommendations of the EQB to the lead agencies which are not.
© 2003 Goldman Antonetti