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A. The SEQR Handbook - What is it?

The SEQR Handbook provides agencies, project sponsors, and the public with a practical reference guide to the procedures prescribed by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR)--Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law. It addresses common questions that arise during the process of applying SEQR. The Handbook also attempts to address the needs of individuals who have varying degrees of experience with SEQR. Topics range from an introduction to the basic SEQR process to discussions of important procedural and substantive details.

The Handbook is one of four key documents which establish and describe the SEQR process:

  • the law, Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law,
  • the regulations, 6 NYCRR Part 617, (link leaves DEC website)
  • the SEQR Cookbook (PDF) (311 kB), and
  • this SEQR Handbook.

The law and regulations prescribe the goals, processes, and decision criteria for environmental reviews under SEQR. The latter two are companion documents. The Cookbook uses a flow-chart approach to describe the steps to take when applying SEQR to a project, while this Handbook provides more detail and guidance.

This is the third edition of the SEQR Handbook, and it entirely replaces the previous editions. This edition reflects the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process as it now stands. It is based on crucial court decisions which have molded the process and the most recent revisions to the statewide SEQR regulations, Part 617 of Title 6 of New York's Codes, Rules and Regulations. This third edition of the SEQR Handbook is available as an online version only. There are currently no plans to publish a hard copy, however, a SEQR Handbook in PDF version (1 mB) of the SEQR Handbook is available.

This Introduction offers basic instruction in the use of the Handbook, as well as a history and description of the nature of the SEQR law. It also discusses the concept of reasonableness as it applies to SEQR.

Chapters 1 through 8 contain guidelines on specific SEQR issues as well as detailed explanations of the SEQR process. They are organized by topic to parallel the sequential steps in the required procedures (generally paralleling the regulations and the SEQR Cookbook). They also include special sections on how local land use procedures relate to SEQR plus the relationship of any other review procedures that relate to SEQR. Chapter 9 briefly reviews significant court decisions on SEQR.

Whenever possible, subjects are cross-referenced to other portions of the Handbook, to Article 8, or to Part 617.

User Tips:

Each topic is addressed through a series of questions and answers.

Before reading about a particular topic, skim all the questions pertaining to the topic to quickly gain a sense of related issues.

While reading about specific issues in the Handbook, it is always advisable to keep the following basic principles about SEQR in mind:

  • Have you determined what the whole action is?
  • Have all the relevant environmental impacts been considered?
  • If an environmental impact statement is required, has the appropriate range of alternatives been considered, including the "no action" alternative?
  • Have you complied with all the steps in the SEQR process?
  • Is the information about the action, and its analysis, reasonable and adequate?

In concept, SEQR is a simple and logical evaluation process. However, it does have its own vocabulary of terms and specific required forms. To assist state and local governmental agencies, and the public at large about SEQR, the DEC has posted a great deal of information on the DEC SEQR web page including the regulations (6 NYCRR Part 617), brochures, the SEQR Cookbook, this handbook and other SEQR related materials.

Where to find more information:

If, after you have explored the on-line information, you still have questions or need clarification on some aspect of the SEQR process, feel free to contact us. There is an "e-mail us" link on the right hand side of each of the SEQR web pages. This will allow you to contact the SEQR staff directly. Questions may also be addressed to:

SEQR Coordinator
Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1750
Telephone 518- 402-9167

Training for local government agencies is offered through the Department of State, Division of Local Government Services (link in the right column of this page). They can be contacted at:

New York State Department of State
Division of Local Government Services
41 State Street
Albany, NY 12231-0001
Telephone: (518) 473-3355
Fax: (518) 474-6572

In addition, the Association of Towns, the bar associations, the Planning Federation and Regional Planning Groups, academic organizations and private trainers periodically offer SEQR training for local government officials and the general public.

E-mail us if you wish to submit comments. Please be sure to indicate which section or item you are commenting on, and include your name.