Goldman does some incredible work, and I really respect him as a lawyer, so if he says there's an issue of whether the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the proposed Sonics arena meets the letter of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), I suppose the attorneys writing the ordinance need to look into that. But from my non-lawyerly perspective, the MOU makes no obvious effort to sidestep SEPA:
Section 5: SEPA. The Parties acknowledge that the Project is subject to review and potential mitigation under various laws, including the State Environmental Policy Act, Chapter 43.21C of the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”), and the state and local implementing rules promulgated thereunder (collectively, “SEPA”). The City or County may not take any "action" within the meaning of SEPA except as authorized by law, and nothing in this MOU is intended to limit the City’s or County's exercise of substantive SEPA authority.
Section 21: City/County Conditions Precedent. The obligations of the City and County under this MOU to commit Public Financing are expressly conditioned on the following conditions precedent: … b. SEPA and Permitting. (i) SEPA review associated with any City or County actions as contemplated by paragraph 5 of this MOU has been completed; (ii) the master use permit and all other permits required for construction of the Project have been obtained; (iii) the City and County have considered the SEPA review in connection with their respective actions and have waived this condition precedent, which waiver may be withheld only on the basis of an exercise of SEPA substantive authority; and (iv) any challenges to the Project have been resolved in a manner reasonably acceptable to the Parties.
Goldman says that he's concerned signing the MOU would create "irreversible momentum," and that may or may not be true. But I find it hard to characterize the language of the MOU as an effort to make an end-run around our state's environmental laws.