A 2007 Model State Environmental Quality Act - March 2007
|I.||A 2007 Model State Environmental
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|Carolyn Raffensperger and Nancy Myers, editors|
|A 2007 Model State Environmental Quality Act
From the staff of the Science and Environmental Health NetworkIt is time to bring out the new models. Environmental laws, like automobiles, are due for a major redesign.
One place to start is with state environmental quality legislation. Fewer than 20 states have their own environmental quality acts, or "little NEPAs," most of them developed in the 1970s when the environment was high on the national agenda as well. But more states are considering such legislation, especially as federal rules and enforcement have been gutted and subordinated to the politics of business interests.
SEHN's legal director, Joe Guth, has been helping states work out more comprehensive and forward-looking legal approaches to guaranteeing a livable world for future generations. In the process he has devised a model State Environmental Quality Act that incorporates the precautionary principle, environmental justice, consideration of cumulative harmful impacts, and the legacy we leave future generations as well as many other progressive developments in environmental policy and law of the last few years.
The full text of the act is attached to this Networker. Read on to learn more about the model act and why we wrote it this way.
Three Environments We've learned a lot since the big environmental laws were drawn up in the 1970s. Much of what we've learned can be summed up this way: You can't treat "the environment" as separate from humans. In fact, human health depends upon three "environments":
All three environments are always intertwined in all "environmental" work. This model law is the first, as far as we know, to address all three environments. It is aspirational, representing the best, most up-to-date thinking of the environmental movement in all its forms, including environmental justice and health. It is also a work in progress that is meant to be adapted, improved, and used in whole or in part.We acknowledge the fine work of the State Environmental Resource Center, whose model bill provided the skeleton for this version. You can find it at http://www.serconline.org/SEQA/pkg_frameset.html.
What Is New in This Act Our model act incorporates major changes to the SERC document, however, and in so doing breaks significant new ground. Here are some examples:
The Act leads off with the public trust duty of government and environmental justice and incorporates these principles throughout. Environmental justice is a primary, not a secondary consideration:
This Act switches the burden of proof to proponents of a project to establish a reasonable certainty that the proposed project will cause no significant adverse effect on the environment or unfair treatment.
This language is found throughout the Act, for example in Chapter 3 Sec. 3.1:
It incorporates the precautionary principle's approach to evaluating evidence of environmental harm or unfair treatment in the absence of complete scientific certainty.
In Chapter 2, the definition of "Evidence" (M) is:
It incorporates specific requirements for Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and government reviews of those documents to consider the public trust, environmental justice, future generations, cumulative impacts, and full analysis of alternatives.
The definitions of environmental justice (unfair treatment) and cumulative impacts build on recent progress in environmental justice legislation, notably in California.
This bill contemplates that projects might improve the environment and not always degrade it. It creates a preference for alternatives that improve the environment over those that are neutral, and for those that are neutral over those that degrade the environment.
It requires that any compensating remediation benefit the same community that is damaged by other aspects of a project.
It requires proponents of projects to pay for all agency attorney fees and expenses if they challenge an agency finding--Chapter 3 Section 4.3 (D)--and provides for agencies to require a performance bond from proponents of projects--Chapter 3 Section 3.3 (C) (iv).
We've attached the model law as a Word document. We hope you will use this model law, adapt it, and make it better. Let us know how it serves you.