The Gap Between Informational Goals and the Duty to Gather Information: Challenging Piecemealed Review under the Washington State Environmental Policy Act

33 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2009 Last revised: 13 Oct 2012

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The State of Washington adopted the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) in 1971 to acknowledge ‘the necessary harmony between humans and the environment in order to prevent and eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere, as well as to promote the welfare of humans and the understanding of our ecological systems.’ The lofty goals are implemented through an informational mandate, under which SEPA requires agencies to make informed environmental decisions in a process of open and public study of environmental impacts.

One challenge to SEPA’s informational approach is known as ‘piecemealing.’ Piecemealing involves the practice of dividing a proposal into small, component parts and separately studying the adverse impacts from each part. Of course, because the impacts of small pieces of a project often appear negligible, isolated environmental review of such parts rarely receives attention. The danger of piecemealed review is found in the resulting informational gaps: piecemealed review avoids analysis of both the project as a whole and of the cumulative impacts that result from the component parts.

Although state and federal courts have rejected piecemeal review, the courts have been inconsistent in their identification and treatment of piecemeal review, causing uncertainty in the role that SEPA’s informational goals are intended to serve. This Article explains how the practice of piecemealed environmental review detracts from the informational approach of SEPA, as well as the difficulties that courts have faced in identifying it.

Keywords: SEPA, environment, courts

Suggested Citation

Hirokawa, Keith H., The Gap Between Informational Goals and the Duty to Gather Information: Challenging Piecemealed Review under the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (2001). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 343 (2001). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1477469

Keith H. Hirokawa (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
29
Abstract Views
574
PlumX Metrics