An Act Relating to the Creation of an Environmental Restoration Accelerator

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Summary

In order to help states move forward with environmental restoration projects that improve habitat, reduce pollution, and protect wildlife, this policy helps reduce needless delays for permitting conservation projects. The policy establishes a way to work with state agencies to reduce regulatory barriers and make measures to protect and restore the environment more effective.

An Act Relating to the Creation of an Environmental Restoration Accelerator

Section 1. Intent

The legislature finds that taxpayers want effective environmental restoration projects to improve habitat, reduce pollution, and protect wildlife. Funding for environmental restoration should not be wasted on needless delay or permit barriers that are imposed, intentionally or unintentionally, by government regulation. To ensure the citizens of the state receive the environmental benefits they are paying for, the legislature creates an environmental restoration accelerator, which is empowered to work with state agencies to reduce regulatory barriers and make protecting and restoring the environment of the state more effective.

Section 2. Creating the Environmental Restoration Accelerator

(1) An environmental restoration accelerator is established to provide regulatory flexibility for projects and programs funded with taxpayer dollars to help ensure expenditures achieve their environmental goals in a cost-effective and timely manner.

(2) The governor must appoint an administrator and assign staff to run the environmental restoration accelerator. The accelerator shall be located in the Office of the Governor.

(3) Any entity receiving funding from the state for the purpose of environmental restoration is eligible to apply for regulatory relief from the environmental restoration accelerator.

(4) The administrator of the environmental restoration accelerator must assist every qualifying entity by:

(a) Assisting the entity with identifying any regulatory barriers to successfully and efficiently implementing the project or program for which the entity received funding.

(b) Working with the relevant regulatory agency or agencies to see what, if any, regulatory relief may be granted to the entity by the regulatory agency or agencies.

(с) The regulatory agency or agencies may provide relief in the form of a waiver or modification of state law, a waiver or modification of state regulation, or both, for a trial period. Agencies will take all reasonable steps to respond within 30 days. Agencies may request an extension from the administrator.

(d) The initial trial period for relief may occur for up to five years and may be extended indefinitely for the entity by a regulatory agency or agencies, pursuant to subsection 5 of this section.

(e) When regulatory relief is granted to an entity, the administrator of the environmental restoration accelerator shall provide notice to all similar entities that qualify for the environmental restoration accelerator of the available relief.

(f) If relief is not granted, a qualifying entity may appeal the decision to the governor.

(5)(a) The administrator of the environmental restoration accelerator or the relevant regulatory agency or agencies may rescind a grant of regulatory relief if:

(i) The administrator or relevant regulatory agency determines the relief is creating excessive risk to the environment or public health; or

(ii) The program, project, or other qualifying grant has been terminated;

(b) When rescinding regulatory relief, the relevant agency must provide the entity that received the relief with a detailed explanation of the reason for the rescission.

(6) The administrator must provide a progress report on the environmental restoration accelerator to the appropriate committees of the legislature by January 1st every year. The report must include:

(a) The number and type of entities requesting regulatory relief;

(b) A review and summary of the types of regulatory relief requested;

(c) The details of all regulatory relief granted by regulatory agencies;

(d) Recommendations or considerations for amending state laws or regulations to provide permanent regulatory relief; and

(e) Any other information that the department deems relevant and useful.

(7) This section does not limit the authority of any regulatory agency to take any enforcement action, other than a civil penalty, authorized by law. This section shall not limit a regulatory agency’s authority to issue a civil penalty as authorized by law based upon a person’s failure to comply with specific terms and conditions of any permit or license issued by the agency to that person.

(8) Receipt of a regulatory waiver does not create immunity from civil or criminal liability for any losses or damages caused by applicants.

(9) The regulatory relief office and the regulatory relief office’s employees are not liable for any business losses or the recouping of application expenses or other expenses related to the regulatory sandbox, including for:

(a) denying an applicant’s application to participate in the regulatory sandbox for any reason; or

(b) ending a sandbox participant’s participation in the regulatory sandbox at any time and for any reason.

(10) If a regulatory agency determines any part of this section to be in conflict with federal law or program requirements, in conflict with federal requirements that are a prescribed condition to the allocation of federal funds to the state, or in conflict with the requirements for eligibility of employers in this state for federal unemployment tax credits, the conflicting part of this chapter shall be inoperative solely to the extent of the conflict. Any rules under this section shall meet federal requirements that are a necessary condition to the receipt of federal funds by the state or the granting of federal unemployment tax credits to employers in this state.

Section 3. Auditing the results of the environmental restoration accelerator

The legislative audit and review committee shall conduct an evaluation of the implementation of the environmental restoration accelerator as described in section 1 of this act and report to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 202X on the results of the evaluation. The report must include recommendations on whether to continue the environmental restoration accelerator in its existing form or not, and any legislative changes that may be needed to improve the program.  Specifically, the report must include a comparison of entities who received regulatory relief to similar entities that either did not request regulatory relief or did not receive regulatory relief, to provide insight into the reasons for and values behind grants of regulatory relief, and the effectiveness of the regulatory relief.