On June 28, 2018, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced DEC’s adoption of amendments to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations. These are DEC’s first major amendments to SEQRA in more than twenty years. The final amendments will be published on the DEC’s website on July 18, 2018 and will become effective January 1, 2019. Later this year, DEC expects to release updates to the SEQRA Handbook and SEQRA Workbooks.
According to DEC, the amendments are intended to encourage sustainable development and renewable energy while streamlining the environmental review process. Opinions will differ as to whether the amendments go far enough to achieve this intent; particularly, whether any meaningful difference will be achieved in streamlining the review process. The amendments include revisions to the lists of Type I and Type II actions, mandatory scoping, and amendments to the procedures for accepting a draft environmental impact statement as complete.
Some examples of the modifications made to the SEQRA regulations include the reduction of the threshold for a Type I action in a municipality with a population of 150,000 or less from 250 proposed units connected to existing water and sewer infrastructure, to 200 proposed units. Also, an action will no longer be classified as Type I solely because it is located within or substantially contiguous to a building or site listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the action must also exceed 25% of any other Type I threshold.
The Type II list has been expanded to exempt more actions from environmental review. Some of the new or amended Type II actions include installation of telecommunication cables in existing rights-of-way under certain circumstances, retrofits for green infrastructure, installation of solar energy arrays involving a physical alteration of 25 acres or less on certain types of sites or on existing, non-historic buildings, and reuse of residential, commercial or mixed-use structures for uses permitted under the local zoning code.
Keane & Beane will undertake a further analysis of the amended SEQRA regulations after the final amendments are made available on the DEC website later this month.
Should you have any questions, please contact Jennifer L. Gray, Esq.