G. Interested Agency and Public Involvement
In This Section You Will Learn:
- how the public can participate in the SEQR process; and
- at what point in the SEQR process can the general public participate.
1. How is the public made aware of proposed actions that may be subject to SEQR?
Individuals, interest groups and public agencies which are interested but not involved may become aware of proposed actions through:
- The electronic media. Local and regional press, along with TV and radio, frequently cover proposed development activities and related agency decisions. Such early reports by the media often trigger inquiries by individuals and interest groups to local officials;
- Public notices. Official notification of the application of SEQR to a proposed action may occur through:
Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB). The ENB is a DEC publication, which lists all SEQR notices that are filed with the Commissioner of DEC. This includes notices of availability and completion of draft and final EISs and hearing notices.
- Newspapers. Notice of a SEQR hearing on a draft EIS must be published in a local newspaper of general circulation at least 14 days prior to the hearing. A lead agency may also announce a scoping meeting in a local newspaper and request written comments from those unable to attend. SEQR regulations also require that notices of the filing of negative declarations be incorporated into any other subsequent notice regarding the action otherwise required by law.
- Public files. Required SEQR notices, EAFs, EISs and other documents are considered public documents, and as such, must be made available for inspection at each involved agency.
- Meeting minutes and notices may also be posted on bulletin boards in the city, town or village hall where the project is located.
2. If an agency has an interest or possible concern about a proposed action, may it participate in the SEQR process, even if it has no jurisdiction over the action?
An agency that does not have a discretionary decision to fund, approve or directly undertake some aspect of a proposed action cannot formally be an involved agency as defined under 617.2(s) (link leaves DEC website) , nor can it be considered for lead agency. There is no obligation for the lead agency to coordinate review with interested agencies (although it may do so). Nevertheless, interested agencies, as defined by 617.2(t) (link leaves DEC website), still may participate in many ways, as described below.
3. If an interested agency is required to make recommendations about a proposed action to an involved agency, could it then be considered an involved agency?
No. Various public advisory boards and councils and any agencies which participate in an advisory capacity, such as planning boards during zoning actions, may be legally obligated to make recommendations on particular kinds of actions. So long as these are only recommendations and can be taken under advisement, but not necessarily followed, they are not discretionary decisions. Such agencies cannot have status as involved agencies but may still participate in the SEQR process as interested agencies.
4. Is an interested agency likely to be contacted during the initial coordination process?
Yes. This may happen in order to determine which potentially involved agencies are actually involved. In addition, interested agencies may be contacted as a courtesy to keep them informed of actions which may affect them.
5. May the general public, including private organizations, interest groups and individuals be considered as interested agencies?
No. The term "agency" is defined in 617.2(c) to mean a state or local agency. However, private organizations, interest groups and individuals all have an ability to participate in the SEQR process.
6. When and how may the general public begin to participate in review of specific actions under SEQR?
There are several key points in the SEQR process when interest groups and agencies and individuals may participate.
If such groups, agencies or individuals are aware that a proposed action is under consideration and will require a determination of significance, they should communicate their environmental concerns and questions to the lead agency or one of the involved agencies.
If a positive determination of significance (positive declaration) is made, interested agencies, organizations and individuals may participate by:
- contributing relevant scoping topics, either through written communication to the lead agency or at public scoping sessions, if such sessions are called for by the lead agency;
- submitting written comments during the draft EIS comment period; and
- commenting on the draft EIS at public hearings.
If a conditioned negative declaration (CND) is made, interested agencies, organizations and individuals may comment during the 30-day public review period.
7. How can interested parties who are not involved agencies be most effective in presenting their concerns about a proposed action?
Interested agencies, organizations and individuals should try to develop on-going communication with agencies which have regulatory authority over the resources or geographic areas which concern them. Interested parties should identify their interests and request that they be informed when an action is proposed that will potentially affect such resources or geographic areas. In addition, interested agencies, organizations and individuals should:
Know the procedures for complying with SEQR, including the terminology, timetables and decision-making requirements;
Request access to and study EAFs, positive and negative declarations, draft EISs and other information on proposed actions. If needed, request clarification of scientific terms, concepts, or data interpretation;
Focus on major issues, not minor discrepancies or problems with wording. Remember, the lead agency is required to consider only substantive comments. Avoid making speculative comments or unsupported assertions;
Organize the comments by placing the most important concerns first;
Identify reasonable alternatives or ways to reduce impacts that may have been overlooked; and
Highlight the effects the project may have on the local community or region or upon specific agency programs. This could include effects on community services, housing, land use, transportation, aesthetics, cultural values, or historic resources. These are subjects about which the public often has substantive information.
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.