ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT PROCESS FOR A WIND PROJECT IN HAWAII
When a wind energy developer is considering a specific location to install a wind farm, the developer conducts an initial assessment of the wind resource and other characteristics of the site to determine whether the site is suitable and feasible for the development of a wind farm. If the Project developer decides to move forward with a site, the developer will meet with relevant government agencies about the scope of the project and whether an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. There are several criteria set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) that, if met, require the preparation of a federal and/or state EA/EIS Once the relevant agencies determine that an EA or EIS is required for the project, the agencies work with the developer to determine 1) the potential anticipated environmental impacts from the project, 2) whether an EA or EIS is the appropriate environmental review document prepared, 3) which agencies will be involved, and 4) which agency will be the lead agency for the process of preparing the EA or EIS. Because an EIS is being prepared for the Na Pua Makani project, the process described here is for an EIS.
The Scoping Process
Once a determination has been made that an EIS is required, a notice is published informing the public that an EIS will be prepared. A 30-day scoping period then begins. All agencies that would be responsible for possible impacts (i.e., cooperating agencies) will become involved and determine what potential impacts should be studied.
The 30-day scoping period also includes a public comment period and a public scoping meeting at which members of the public can say which impacts concern them and would like the EIS to consider. It’s important to note that the scoping meeting is not intended to be a forum to express general sentiments about a development but rather to focus on potential impacts to the natural or human environment that may result from a project, including cultural, economic and social impacts that would be disclosed in the EIS.
The Draft EIS (DEIS)
When the scoping process is complete, studies based on the potential environmental impacts and comments from the scoping period are conducted. These studies will not only evaluate possible impacts, but also consider measures to mitigate them. The DEIS will also contain an alternatives analysis which will consider the impacts from the proposed project and alternatives, including not doing the project.
When the studies have been completed, the DEIS is prepared. The lead agency reviews the DEIS to ensure it disclosed all potential environmental impacts. After the lead agency accepts the DEIS, a notice will be published that the DEIS is available for comment, and a 45-day public comment period will begin, during which members of the public can respond to the studies and raise questions about any shortcomings they believe exist in the studies. At least one public meeting will be held during the comment period. The comments from the public and the cooperating agencies are then considered and addressed in the Final EIS, which also contains answers to all comments raised about the DEIS.
The Final EIS (FEIS)
The FEIS will set forth mitigation measures needed to reduce any identified impacts to acceptable levels. The FEIS is submitted to the lead agency, which will determine if it is acceptable. If it is, the receiving agency will publish a notice that the FEIS has been accepted. The USFWS will issue a Record of Decision upon acceptance of the FEIS.