New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) ensures that any state or local governmental decisions which may impact the environment are given due consideration. It’s a law that touches on various aspects of community life, from new construction to the adoption of land use plans. But what exactly triggers a Type I action under SEQRA? Let’s delve into this topic to uncover the significance of these actions and how they could affect you and your community.
What is SEQRA?
SEQRA requires governmental bodies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making processes. This law applies when a New York state or local agency has the authority to issue a discretionary permit or approval for an action, directly undertakes a project, or adopts a policy that affects the environment.
Triggering a Type I Action
Type I actions – listed in 6 NYCRR 617.4 and in involved agencies’ procedures—are those which are more likely to require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Type I Actions thus require a more rigorous review process. By contrast, the SEQRA review ends if a project is classified as Type II action. Projects are categorized as Type I actions because they meet or exceed certain thresholds listed in the official regulations, (see 6 NYCRR 617.4), or are included in an agency’s locally adopted Type I list.
For instance, some of the actions deemed Type I include:
• The adoption of comprehensive zoning regulations by a municipality.
• Construction of large numbers of new residential units.
• Acquisition or transfer of large parcels of land by agencies.
• Large-scale nonresidential construction projects.
• Construction of certain structures exceeding a set height.
• Unlisted actions that meet or exceed certain thresholds, and/or are within or contiguous to certain land types, historic districts, or agricultural districts.
The list also includes actions such as the adoption of changes in zoning affecting over 25 acres of a zoning district, or the sale or lease of over 100 contiguous acres by an agency. It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive but indicative of the kinds of actions that are considered Type I.
The Importance of Classification
Classifying a project as a Type I Action is significant because it creates a presumption that the action is likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact. This triggers a more detailed process requiring the agency to make a determination of environmental significance of the proposed action. If the agency determines that the proposed action may cause at least one significant adverse environmental impact, it must issue a “Positive Declaration of Environmental Significance” (or “Pos Dec”), requiring the agency to hold a hearing, cause the preparation of an EIS, and make written findings with mitigation. This process serves to identify and mitigate any potential environmental harm before the project can proceed. But if the Agency determines that no significant adverse environmental impact will result, it may issue a “Negative Declaration of Environmental Significance” (a “Neg Dec”). If a Neg Dec is issued, SEQRA is at an end, and the agency is not required to hold public hearings, prepare an EIS, or make a written findings statement with mitigation. Accordingly, SEQRA imposes more significant review requirements when an action is classified as a Type I action, which results in longer and more detailed environmental reviews.
How an Experienced Lawyer Can Help
The intricacies of SEQRA, particularly in determining what constitutes a Type I action, can be complex and often require legal interpretation. Experienced environmental lawyers are invaluable in navigating these regulations. They can provide guidance on the submission of a Full Environmental Assessment Form, identify issues with an EIS, and offer strategic advice on how to proceed with projects that may be subject to SEQRA review. They are also well-positioned to identify problems with SEQRA reviews and chart a course to correct the problem.
In conclusion, SEQRA is a critical component of environmental protection in New York State, ensuring that environmental considerations are not overlooked in the rush to develop or change land use. A Type I action under SEQRA is a flag that a proposed project requires a thorough environmental review due to its potential impact. While the thresholds and examples provided offer a starting point, the advice of a seasoned environmental lawyer is crucial for any individual or entity involved in actions that might trigger SEQRA’s provisions. With their experience, navigating the complex terrain of environmental review becomes a journey with a knowledgeable guide, helping to ensure that projects meet legal requirements and respects our communities.
The Zoghlin Group’s attorneys have extensive experience with SEQRA reviews at the administrative level, as well in prosecuting and defending SEQRA claims at trial and appellate levels in New York State courts.
If you find yourself involved in or affected by a project, or have concerns about whether the environmental review is being conducted properly, make sure you contact an experienced attorney who can help. This is especially important in SEQRA cases because the timeline for bringing such claims in court is very short.
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