February 1, 2012

PLF's Daniel Himebaugh to testify before Washington Senate Environment Committee on precautionary regulation

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

I will be testifying to the Washington Senate Environment Committee today on SB 6369, a bill that would amend the State Environmental Policy Act.  SEPA is Washington’s “environmental checklist” law.  It requires the government and developers to identify the environmental effects of proposed projects.

SB 6369 would add a new section to SEPA requiring all public agencies to take a “precautionary approach” when implementing environmental policies.  This means that agencies would be directed to regulate development in the event they lacked certainty that the proposed project would harm the environment.  It’s a “when in doubt, regulate” approach.

My remarks to the committee will focus on several criticisms of the precautionary principle from leading scholars in the fields of law and risk management.  As explained in my extended written remarks, many commentators believe the precautionary approach is unscientific and essentially useless as a regulatory principle.

If you want to go deeper, check out this law review article I coauthored with PLF’s Brian Hodges.

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