Environmental Impact Assessment in New York State
In New York State, most projects or activities proposed by a state agency or unit of local government, and all discretionary approvals (permits) from a NYS agency or unit of local government, require an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by 6 NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). [Statutory authority: Environmental Conservation Law Sections 3-0301(1)(b), 3-0301(2)(m) and 8-0113].
SEQR requires the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting.
We standardized our environmental assessments by using the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) and special guidance documents which you may download with instructions using the links on this page.
Please note: The revised model environmental assessment forms, draft EAF workbooks and the proposed revisions to Part 617 - SEQR can be found online. View the revised forms and draft workbooks. View the proposed regulations.
In addition to linking to forms and guidance publications, we also provide links to technical information and support. The Environmental Resource Mapper (ERM), a web based interactive mapping application, can be used to locate both freshwater wetlands regulated by the State of New York, and New York State's classified streams and water bodies. Technical information is also available on the Division of Water's pages regarding Storm Water and Erosion and Sediment Control which, in addition to being part of a required permit set for most projects that will require a SEQR assessment, present related concepts pertinent to the topic of environmental impact assessment.
On completing an EAF, the lead agency determines the significance of an action's environmental impacts. The agency then decides whether to require (or prepare) an Environmental Impact Statement and whether to hold a public hearing on the proposed action.
Other links on this page take you to:
- a draft DEC policy for assessing greenhouse gas impacts within an EIS;
- a description of SEQR and how it works;
- additional explanations of terms used in SEQR;
- an annotated flow path of the SEQR process;
- information on a new 2005 law requiring EISs to be posted on the Internet;
- the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Proposed Amendments to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) Regulations (311 Kb PDF); and
- our SEQR brochures in pdf format
We also provide downloadable versions of key forms used during the SEQR process.
Who Enforces SEQR
What agency enforces SEQR?
The Legislature has made SEQR self-enforcing; that is, each agency of government is responsible to see that it meets its own obligations to comply.
While the Department of Environmental Conservation is charged with issuing regulations regarding the SEQR process, DEC has no authority to review the implementation of SEQR by other agencies. In other words, there are no "SEQR Police."
What happens if an agency does not comply with SEQR?
If an agency makes an improper decision or allows a project that is subject to SEQR to start, and fails to undertake a proper review, citizens or groups who can demonstrate that they may be harmed by this failure may take legal action against the agency under Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules. Project approvals may be rescinded by a court and a new review required under SEQR. New York State's court system has consistently ruled in favor of strong compliance with the provisions of SEQR (see also case law to be posted later).
How does DEC assist agencies in implementing the SEQR process?
DEC provides informal interpretations and guidance about the conduct of SEQR. These informal interpretations are based on the experience of DEC staff. DEC, however, cannot provide formal legal opinions about the conduct of SEQR by other agencies. State and local agencies and other interested parties should consult with their own legal counsel for formal interpretations of SEQR law and regulations.
More about SEQR:
- Introduction to SEQR - New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making
- Stepping Through the SEQR Process - Stepping Through the SEQR Process
- What is An "Action" Under SEQR? - What constitutes a SEQR Action
- What is An Environmental Impact Statement? - An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) concisely describes and analyzes a proposed action which may have a significant impact on the environment
- What Are SEQR Type I and Type II Actions? - What is a SEQR Type I and Type II action?
- What is The SEQR Decision Making Process? - SEQR Decision Making Process
- How Does SEQR Work? - Under the requirements of the Uniform Procedures Act, applications for DEC permits cannot be considered complete unless a completed environmental assessment form as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) has been received
- "EIS on the Web" Requirement - A 2005 amendment to SEQR requires every EIS , Draft EIS and Final EIS to be posted on a publicly accessible internet Web site, as of February 26, 2006
- SEQR Handbook - Since it first appeared in March 1982, the SEQR Handbook has been a standard reference book for state, county and local government officials; environmental consultants; attorneys; permit applicants; and the public
- Commissioner Decisions on Lead Agency Disputes - In a coordinated review under SEQR, there are times when the involved agencies are not able to agree which one of them will become the lead agency. When this happens, any of the involved agencies or the project sponsor can request the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation to designate a lead agency.
- Critical Environmental Areas - Local agencies may designate specific geographic areas within their boundaries as "Critical Environmental Areas" (CEAs). State agencies may also designate geographic areas they own, manage or regulate.
- State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) Forms - Short Environmental Assessment Form; Full Environmental Assessment Form; Positive Declaration Form; Negative Declaration Form; Notice of Complete Draft EIS/ Final EIS; Notice of Completion of Draft EIS and Notice of SEQR Hearing
- SEQR Publications - Publications pertaining to State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR)