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New State Legislation Requires Increased Climate Resilience for New York Infrastructure

As in other areas of environmental policy, New York State is a leader in grappling with global climate change. Since 2009, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has had a policy in place that requires it to consider energy use and greenhouse gas emissions when it prepares or reviews an Environmental Impact Statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

One of many climate-related policies, it was put in place to help mitigate the state's contribution to climate change. But with the impacts of climate change increasingly being felt in New York, the state's focus has expanded from climate change mitigation to include adaptation as well. Accordingly, Governor Cuomo has recently signed into law a bill that will help ensure that the state's infrastructure is prepared for future climate hazards.

Entitled the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, this new law requires that the state "include consideration of future physical climate risk due to sea level rise, and/or storm surges and/or flooding," when undertaking a variety of actions. These actions include: reviewing applications for certain major projects; siting industrial hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities; disbursing certain state grants for local waterfront revitalization programs or coastal rehabilitation projects; and the permitting of petroleum bulk storage ("PBS") facilities.

As part of the climate adaptation focus for PBS facilities, the Act requires DEC to promulgate new design, construction, installation and maintenance regulations for PBS facilities with climate hazards in mind. At present, it is unclear how substantive these new regulations will be, but additional regulations frequently trigger additional costs, so we at the Periconi, LLC Environmental Law Blog will be following these developments closely and posting updates to this blog.

In addition to new PBS regulations, the Community Risk and Resiliency Act also requires DEC to "adopt regulations establishing science-based sea level risk projections" by January 2015, which it will then update every five years. These projections will likely help shape future state action to deal with climate change.

While one state's legislation will not solve the threat of global climate change, the Community Risk and Resiliency Act is a laudable step. It will help to mitigate the impact of future disasters like storm surges and floods, and stands in contrast to the approach to climate risk that some other states have explored.

For additional information on the Community Risk and Resilience Act, including how it may affect the may affect your project or facility, contact one of the environmental attorneys at Periconi, LLC.

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