Updating SEQRA: DEC Proposes to Update and Streamline the State Environmental Quality Review Regulations
When the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) last revised the regulations that implement the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), Bill Clinton was completing the last year of his first term in office, the Dallas Cowboys would shortly win Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Arizona, and the first flip phone was about to go on sale.
Less well known, the U.S. led the world in installed solar photovoltaic systems with 77 megawatts of capacity.
Times have changed.
The DEC is proposing to make its first update to the SEQRA regulatory program in 20 years, driven by ambitious goals:
- encouraging smart growth and sustainable development,
- supporting renewable energy, and helping meet the State’s clean energy goals, and
- streamlining the environment review process, while ensuring that the process continues to require that environmental considerations are taken into account when state and local agencies undertake actions that could affect the environment.
The draft regulations were made available to the public on January 23, 2017.
Click to read the draft regulations.
Click to read the regulatory impact statement.
We’ll be taking a closer look at the details of the proposed changes over the next week, but a quick overview of some of the more interesting changes that are proposed:
- A broad expansion of the list of Type II actions, which have been determined by DEC not to require further environmental review,
- Modified thresholds for certain Type I actions, which have been deemed more likely to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS),
- Mandatory scoping for all actions that have been determined to require preparation of an EIS, and
- Making the acceptance procedures for a draft EIS more consistent.
A number of the additions to the Type II list are clearly intended to advance State initiatives:
- The installation of broadband within an existing right-of-way, which might accelerate the provision of broadband infrastructure needed to meet the State’s goal of “broadband for all” under the New NY Broadband Program,
- Green infrastructure upgrades or retrofits,
- Installation of solar energy systems that produce up to 5 MW of solar energy on closed landfills, remediated Brownfield sites, wastewater treatment facilities, sites with industrial zoning, or solar canopies on residential and commercial parking facilities,
- Installation of solar energy facilities that produce up to 5 megawatts of power on existing structures that are not listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places,
- Sustainable development of disturbed sites, and
- Land transfers for affordable housing.
The proposed regulations are the result of a process that began back in 2012. DEC notes that it included extensive outreach to stakeholders, held several meetings with representatives of stakeholder groups, including industry, environmental and local government groups, and prepared a generic EIS, after a public scoping opportunity, that identified and responded to numerous concerns identified by diverse stakeholders.
In addition to the proposed regulatory changes, the update will reflect the modernized environmental assessment documents that were implemented in 2013, which include web-based environmental assessment forms, workbooks and a spatial mapping tool.
The proposed agency rulemaking will include a 90-day public comment period and hearing.
DEC announced that the SEQRA review process will run concurrently with the SAPA process, and anticipates accepting comments through May 19, 2017.
February 9, 2017 – Amending the SEQRA Regulations: Update
In a brief email to stakeholders, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced the next step in amending the SEQRA regulations: notice of the proposed rulemaking is being published in the February 8, 2017 edition of the New York State Register. Click here and visit pages 3-6.
In addition to the proposed amendments, the notice includes the generic environmental impact statement. Both documents are available on DEC’s website. Click here.
DEC will accept comments on the proposed amendments through May 19, 2017. Comments may be sent to: [email protected]. DEC has also scheduled a public hearing on the proposed rules on March 31, 2017 in Albany.
George Lithco is a partner at J&G concentrating in Environmental Law, Land Use and Zoning Law and can be reached at 866-303-9595 (toll free) or 845-764-9656 or by email.