Time is money: Permitting ‘shot clock’ now reality in Washington

When it comes to economic development, time really is money.

That’s why having regulatory certainty – clear timeframes and regulatory milestones – is critical in the attraction and retention of investors and developers.

So the good news out of Olympia recently was the signing of a bill to put in place the regulatory equivalent of a basketball shot clock. Substitute House Bill 1086, prime sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, puts pressure on regulators to complete a state environmental review of development projects within two years.

Blake said the Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview served as the impetus for the bill. On April 24, the state released its final environmental impact statement for Millennium, five years after it applied for its permits.

Although the bill does not impose a finite time limit on such reviews, it will significantly increase transparency in the process. Every two years, the Department of Ecology (DOE) will have to report all Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to the Legislature, along with the average time the department spent completing them.

Instead, the bill will encourage more transparency and communication in the environmental review process, Blake said.

“The bill was written to be aspirational, and I think there’s many reasons why a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) process can take longer than two years. I don’t think it would be appropriate to put anybody in jail because the SEPA isn’t done,” Blake told the Daily News.

The ability to create jobs, particularly in rural areas of the state, hinges on regulatory policies that can move projects forward in a timely manner. For those workers looking for good family-wage jobs, or for up-and-coming workers who want apprenticeships, major infrastructure projects like Millennium provide those opportunities.

But without timely reviews, those jobs won’t materialize.

Read the full piece here.