The House of Delegates passed on the third reading a proposed law that will empower state governments to establish their own state environmental permit system.
House Bill 11-62-6 stated that state governments are given “autonomy and ownership” over their environment and having their own Environment Quality Protection Board (EQPB) permitting system to “better respond to the needs of their community and preserve and protect their states’ environment.”
The bill calls for amendment in the current EQPB law, which when passed will streamline the issuance of building permits.
The bill will also authorize state governments to conduct the environmental review , including the health and social impact review for construction and maintenance , repairs of roads, docks , housing including renovations and extensions and traditional structures.
The bill however said that the state governments will still have to follow EQPB’s environmental standard.
“The Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) recognizes that some state governments may not want to exercise their power, therefore the delegation under this Act is permissive with the EQPB continuing to regulate activities for which the state has chosen not to conduct an environmental review and health and social impact review.”
The bill also creates a Mitigation Trust Fund which can be used to allocate funds to state governments to enable them to establish the system for environmental review and health and social economic review.
The bill is the second bill attempting to reduce EQPB’s role in safeguarding Palau’s environment. Another bill pending seeks to change EQPB’s status from an autonomous agency to a division under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment.