NYSDEC Announces Proposed Amendments to SEQRA Regulations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) recently announced proposed amendments to the regulations implementing the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), 6 N.Y.C.R.R. Part 617. The amendments mark the first update to the SEQRA regulations in over 20 years. According to a press release issued by the NYSDEC, “[t]he update is designed to encourage smart growth and sustainable development across the state” and is intended to compliment the agency’s implementation of the New York State Lean Initiative, which the NYSDEC says has “improved public responsiveness and performance at DEC while maintaining high standards of environmental and natural resource protection.”

The press release explains that “[t]he proposed amendments to SEQR will both streamline and strengthen the State’s environmental review process by expanding the actions not subject to further review, known as Type II actions, modifying certain thresholds for actions deemed more likely to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS), making scoping of an EIS mandatory rather than optional, and making the acceptance procedures for a draft EIS more consistent.” Examples of proposed Type II actions that would be added to the SEQR regulations include:

  • installation of broadband within an existing right-of-way;
  • green infrastructure upgrades or retrofits;
  • installing 5 MW or less of solar arrays on landfills, cleaned-up brownfield sites, wastewater treatment facilities, sites zoned for industrial use, or solar canopies on residential and commercial parking facilities;
  • installation of 5 MW or less of solar arrays on an existing structure not listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places;
  • sustainable development of disturbed sites;
  • acquisition and dedication of parkland;
  • land transfers for affordable housing; and
  • construction and operation of certain anaerobic digesters or composters at public wastewater treatment facilities or municipal solid waste landfills.

The draft regulations, together with the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) Impact Statement, are available on NYSDEC’s website. The draft regulations will be noticed in both the Environmental Notice Bulletin and the State Register on February 8, 2017.

Comments on the proposed amendments may be submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Permits, Attn: James J. Eldred, Environmental Analyst, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1750 or by e-mail to: seqra617@dec.ny.gov. Comments will be accepted until the close of business on May 19, 2017. A public hearing will be held on March 31, 2017. The hearing will begin at 1:00 p.m. at 625 Broadway, Albany, New York, Public Assembly Room 129.

If you would like assistance with preparing comments, would like representation at the hearing, or would like assistance in evaluating how the proposed amendments will affect a project, please contact a member of the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.

Howard D. Geneslaw is a Director in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.
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