This Comment seeks to answer the question raised by West Main II and Cougar Mountain of what procedural processes and substantive policies may be used in SEPA-based denials. After examining the nature of substantive SEPA authority and the relationship between substantive SEPA and Washington's vested rights doctrine, the Comment will discuss West Main II and Cougar Mountain and will argue that the two cases are consistent. It will then provide an informative assessment of the current limits of substantive SEPA authority. The Comment concludes by suggesting the following legislative or judicial changes in SEPA law: earlier vesting of SEPA policies, greater incorporation of environmental concerns into regulatory codes, and restrictions on the content of agency SEPA policies. These changes would create more certainty for property owners, but at the same time, would retain sufficient flexibility for local governments using SEPA to control the environmental impacts of land use decisions.
Roger Pearce, Death by SEPA: Substantive Denials Under Washington's State Environmental Policy Act, 14 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 143 (1990).