by Allison Fausner
On June 27, 2018, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approved amendments to its regulations implementing the State Environmental Review Act (SEQRA). These amendments, the first major ones in twenty years,came into effect on January 1, 2019. Among other things, the amendments alter the Type I and Type II lists, scoping, and environmental impact statement (EIS) preparation.
SEQRA is meant to, “incorporate the consideration of environmental factors into the existing planning, review and decision-making processes of state, regional and local government agencies at the earliest possible time.” To this end, SEQRA mandates a process, fleshed out by DEC regulations, for agencies to conduct in order to determine whether an action has a significant adverse impact on the environment. In particular, it requires state and local agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of any actions they undertake, fund, or approve.
NYSDEC was tasked with passing regulations to implement the stated goals and policies of SEQRA. According to NYSDEC, the amended regulations will “streamline the environmental review process and encourage sustainable development and renewable energy development without sacrificing SEQR’s integrity or the environmental protections it affords.”
Type I Actions, projects that carry presumption of adverse environmental impact, typically require preparation of an EIS. Type II Actions, projects that are predetermined to not result in adverse environmental impact, are exempt from the preparation of an EIS. The amendments revise the definition of some Type I Actions and expand the Type II list, further limiting what actions are subject to review. Scoping, the process by which an agency decides what adverse environmental impacts are studied in an EIS, is now mandatory. An EIS is now, among other things, required to detail strategies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
To aid implementation of the amended regulations, NYSDEC issues a SEQRA Handbook. In response to the 2018 amendments, NYSDEC issued a proposed version of the SEQRA Handbook and is currently in the process of finalizing the next version of the Handbook.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC Adopts First Major Update to State’s Environmental Quality Review Regulations in 20 Years, June 28, 2018, https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/114048.html.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Final Generic Impact Statement on the Proposed Amendments to the Regulation that Implement the State Environmental Quality Review Actat 191 (2018), https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/permits_ej_operations_pdf/617fgeis2018.pdf.
6 N.Y.C.R.R. § 617.1(c).
Id. § 617.2(b)(1).
N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law§ 8-0113(1).
6 N.Y.C.R.R. § 617.4(a)(1).
6 N.Y.C.R.R. § 617.5(a).
6 N.Y.C.R.R. § 617.8(a).
6 N.Y.C.R.R. § 617.9(b)(5)(iii)(i).
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, SEQR Handbook, https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6188.html (last visited March 3, 2019).