An Overview of SEQRA

Public Works Resource
July 3, 2012 — 1,254 views  
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Whenever a local government agency approves a building project, it is required to meet a strict set of guidelines regarding environmental conservation. Each proposed structure must be scrutinized to determine the impact its construction may have on local wildlife, and sometimes an entire project can be cancelled if mandates are not met.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is part of New York's official legislation on the matter, and any organization that builds in the Empire State must be aware of the following details.

New York SEQRA

The specific clause can be found within the New York Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), at § 8-0101 et seq. The statement reads "No agency involved in an action may undertake, fund or approve the action until it has complied with the provisions of SEQR. A project sponsor may not commence any physical alteration related to an [agency] action until the provisions of SEQR have been complied with."

Agency actions

Agency actions govern the first part of a SEQRA review, and are defined as anything a construction company does before commencing a project. This includes actions ranging from permit approval to land rezoning. Any plans or blueprints must be made public so that citizens have the opportunity to comment on them. After everything is taken into account, if no negative impact can be found, the SEQRA review will issue a "negative declaration." This means that no feasible environmental impact could come from a new building.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

In some situations, agency actions can be found to potentially have a negative impact on the environment. If this happens, the developer and the government must work together to draft a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This document is a public summary of the possible environmental damages and suggested alternatives.

A proper DEIS includes a description of the area that will be affected, several suggested alternatives to the listed action and any air quality or water impacts. Any endangered species, historical sites and culturally relevant locations potentially affected by the project must be noted as well.

Eventually, though the agency is heavily responsible for drafting a DEIS, the developer will be the one who must follow its suggestions. Cost analysis should be included at the end of the document so that construction companies have an estimate of the funds necessary to get the project up to speed.

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