The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) has proposed significant revisions to the regulations that implement the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA” or “SEQR” ), including changes to types of government actions that trigger or are exempt from the preparation of an environmental impact statement (“EIS”). DEC is accepting comments on its draft scope for the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”) on the proposed amendments until August 10, 2012.
The proposed amendments are noteworthy in several respects. First, DEC has proposed a new requirement that all EIS’s include a public scoping process (scoping is not mandatory under existing DEC regulations, but is required within New York City under the City Environmental Quality Review (“CEQR”) process). The proposed amendments also allow for the electronic filing of EIS’s, extend the time-frame for filing a Final EIS once a Draft EIS has been filed (up to 180 days), and identify circumstances in which an EIS will be deemed complete on the basis of the Draft EIS.
According to DEC, the proposed amendments seek to “streamline the SEQR process without sacrificing meaningful environmental review.” Thus, certain categories of unlisted actions which today may require an EIS would be added to the “Type II” list and categorically exempt from further SEQRA review. On the other hand, DEC proposed expanding certain classes of “Type I” actions, which are presumed to require the preparation of an EIS. The Type I and Type II lists are critical to project applicants and government decision-makers, since preparation of an EIS requires a considerable commitment of time and resources but provides for and informs greater opportunity for public input on proposed actions.
In particular, for Type I actions:
- For proposed residential subdivisions, the amendments will considerably reduce the number of residential units that will trigger the Type I threshold.
- The amendments lower the threshold for the number of new parking spaces that will trigger the preparation of an EIS for an action.
- For unlisted actions occurring in or next to historic resources, Type I thresholds will no longer be triggered automatically, but must exceed 25 percent of any threshold in the Type I list, such as acreage disturbed by or housing units created by residential development (6 NYCRR § 617.4).
For Type II actions, the proposed amendments would:
- Add new Type II actions to encourage development in urban areas versus development in greenfields and to encourage green infrastructure projects;
- Add new Type II actions to encourage the installation of solar energy arrays;
- Add a new Type II action that allows for the sale, lease or transfer of property for any Type II action;
- Add a new Type II action for minor subdivisions;
- Add a new Type II action to make the disposition of land by auction a Type II action; and
- Add a new Type II action to encourage the renovation and reuse of existing structures.
The proposed amendments are still in draft form and are not yet scheduled to take effect. Following the conclusion of its environmental review, DEC will issue proposed regulations for public comment. The full text of the draft scope for the GEIS is available here. For more information on the regulatory amendments and the SEQRA process, contact Mark Chertok or David Yudelson.
DEC will accept comments on the draft scope by e-mail at email@example.com (include the subject line “Comments on Part 617 Draft Scope”) or by letter addressed to:
Division of Environmental Permits & Pollution Prevention
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, New York 12233-1750