DEC Adopts Major Update To State’s EQ Review Regulations

New York State DEC Commissioner Seggos shared earlier this week that the “DEC is always looking for ways to make our agency more efficient and effective for the nearly 20 million New Yorkers that depend on us to protect our natural resources. DEC’s updates to SEQR 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.”

The updates to SEQR will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, and will expand the number of actions not subject to further review, known as Type II actions, modify thresholds for actions deemed more likely to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS), and require scoping of an EIS. Additional highlights regarding content of a draft EIS, are the consideration of measures to avoid or reduce an action’s impacts on climate change-induced conditions such as sea level rise and flooding, as well as enhancements to make acceptance procedures for EIS more consistent.

Here are some actions that will be added: green infrastructure upgrades or retrofits, installation of solar arrays on closed landfills, cleaned-up brownfield sites, wastewater treatment facilities, sites zoned for industrial use, or solar canopies on residential and commercial parking facilities, installation of solar arrays on an existing structure not listed on the national or state Register of Historic Places, reuse of a residential or commercial structure, or structure containing mixed residential and commercial uses, acquisition and dedication of parkland, land transfers in connection with one, two or three family housing, and construction and operation of certain anaerobic digesters at operating publicly owned landfills.

DEC’s updates to SEQR were subject to one of the most extensive stakeholder outreach campaigns in agency history and were designed to address concerns shared by a wide range of stakeholders while still maintaining SEQR’s purpose of protecting the public and the environment. In addition to a full public scoping process for the draft EIS, DEC held 11 stakeholder meetings with representatives from the business community, environmental groups, and local governments over two years. DEC received more than 280 comments from the public after the proposed regulations were released in 2017.

The final rules will be available on DEC’s website and noticed in both the Environmental Notice Bulletin and the State Register on July 18. DEC expects to release an updated SEQR Handbook and SEQR workbooks later this year to reflect the regulatory changes that take effect on January 1, 2019. In addition, DEC will provide training for lead agencies to ensure they understand the changes to the SEQR process.

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