DEC Makes Changes To SEQR Guidelines

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted a rulemaking package that will make the first major update to State Environmental Quality Review regulations in more than two decades.

“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,” said Basil Seggos, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner. “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 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 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. Examples of Type II actions to be added include:

¯ 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

¯ construction and operation of certain anaerobic digesters at operating publicly owned landfills.

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 Jan. 1, 2019. In addition, DEC will provide training for lead agencies to ensure they understand the changes to the SEQR process.