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DEC Finalizes Major Changes to State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Regulations

DEC Finalizes SEQR updates

What's a New York developer to do about the seemingly interminable environmental review of proposed projects and the costs these reviews add to affected projects?

Hope that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hears your prayers. And it has, for some of you.

Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that the State will be rolling out big changes to the State' Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) regulations; the first major update to the rules in over 20 years. We blogged about the proposed SEQR changes back in February 2017 and now, after accepting volumes of public comment, it seems the State is ready to proceed.

The new SEQR updates which go into effect on January 1, 2019, are intended to streamline the environmental review process, with an emphasis on making it easier for renewable energy, infrastructure and sustainable development projects to proceed without the need for protracted environmental review. These major changes include expanding the types of activities that do not require further SEQR review (i.e., the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement), known as Type II actions.

Additional Type II proposed actions whose shift to the Type II list will have benefits to developers and municipalities include:

  • Upgrades to "green" infrastructure;
  • Expanding types of areas for installation of solar panels including:
    • closed landfills,
    • cleaned-up brownfield sites, and
    • areas zoned for industrial use; and
  • Reuse of residential or commercial structures, including mixed uses.

These changes should enable developers and municipalities to proceed with these and other types of projects in a more efficient fashion.

DEC is also making additional updates to EISs, specifically, threshold modifications related to actions more likely to require preparation and scoping for an EIS. DEC will also require developers to measure an action's impact on climate change-induced conditions (such as flooding and sea level rise) during the phase of a draft EIS and consider mitigating alternatives.

The new final rules were posted on DEC's website on July 18. DEC will also release updated SEQR Handbook and workbooks later this year that will reflect the changes to the rule.

You should call the attorneys of Periconi, LLC at (212) 213-5500 if you need more information on DEC's changes to the SEQR regulations or if you are considering a project that might require SEQR environmental review.

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