I have been sitting on this for a very long time, and for that I owe all of you reading an apology. I think that, since the state-mandated environmental review is the largest hold-up vis-a-vis the Lighthouse, then people should know about it.
(Blogger's Note: Dave Denenberg of the Nassau Legislature told me during the scoping hearings last May that he believed the environmental review would take 12-18 months to be fully settled. We are now in Month 9 - a project of this kind of significance and complexity cannot be approved overnight, though we all wish it could)
This is Part I of a three-part series. Tomorrow I will touch on the steps involved in the process, where we are, and general timeframes. Over the weekend, expect something about the "So What?" of SEQR.
The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) was adopted by the New York State Legislature in September 1995 and became effective January 1, 1996. The regulations can be found at N.Y.C.R.R. § 617 (Part 617). SEQRA establishes a list of requirements and timelines for environmental review, under a process that is known as SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review).
Purpose of SEQRA/SEQR
The SEQR process is meant to give a comprehensive view of the impact of any proposed action. The goal of SEQR is to balance the social, economic, and environmental considerations when judging the merits of any proposed development.
It is also important to note that SEQR contains a challenge procedure. Citizens may challenge an environmental review if they believe it was not done thoroughly, and, if successful, the law requires the environmental review to start over from the beginning.
When is an Environmental Review Required?
An environmental review is required when discussing any project of significance in New York State. Government bodies, not private developers, must follow the SEQR process when assessing the environmental impact of projects that come before them for approval.
(Blogger's Note: This is also why those proposing Queens, Suffolk, or another option in NY State for the Islanders are jumping the gun a little bit. There are no formal offers, and any proposal would be subject to the same onerous review procedure, so it's not like the Town of Hempstead is the only group that has to follow this and go at a deliberate pace)
What is "Environment"?
Some local governments have been frustrated by the broad definition of "environment" under the SEQR process. Impacts that must be considered when under the SEQR process include the physical conditions which will be affected by a proposed action, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, objects of historic or aesthetic significance, existing patterns of population concentration, distribution, or growth, and existing community or neighborhood character (Source).
Therefore, SEQR separates its definition of "environment" into three main components:
- Physical Impact
- Community Impact
- Impact on Population Patterns
This is why we may not see immediate action on the Lighthouse Project. This is a complex action inextricably tied to other developments in and around its area.
Please consult 617.7 (c) in the SEQR Law for more information on this.
There are a few terms you will hear me discuss when talking about SEQR, so I prepared a glossary:
Lead Agency: The Lead Agency is the government body that oversees preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement. The Town of Hempstead is Lead Agency for the Lighthouse.
Positive Declaration ("Pos-Dec"): A statement released by the Lead Agency that adverse impacts may be significant. This triggers the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Town of Hempstead has issued a Positive Declaration for the Lighthouse Project.
Negative Declaration ("Neg-Dec"): A statement released by the Lead Agency that adverse impacts will not be significant. Issuing a Neg-Dec stops the process, because it means an environmental review is not necessary (unless it is successfully challenged in court).
Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF): Document prepared that determines whether a Pos-Dec will be issued, thus requiring an Environmental Impact Statement.
Type I Action: Action requiring an environmental review. Part 617.4 (b) of the SEQR Law has a list of common Type I Actions.
Type II Action: Action that does not require an environmental review.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): Document prepared by applicant and submitted to Lead Agency that discusses the impact of the proposed development. The Draft EIS (submitted on 2/24/09) must address all potentially significant environmental impacts (shown above), alternatives that would avoid the most significant adverse impacts, and any "mitigations" that can reduce or offset the most significant impacts. Specific mitigations are often the most powerful outcome of the SEQR procedure, since SEQRA as it is written authorizes the Lead Agency to deny a project's approval unless it is satisfied that everything that could be done to offset significant environmental impact will be done.
Public Comments: Period in which the public shares its views on the project and proposed environmental impact. Public Comments are the other main source of information on potential adverse environmental impact of a proposed development. If environmental impact is determined to be significant and mitigations are deemed insufficient, this could be grounds for either a revision of the plan or outright rejection.
Scope: Scope can mean two things related to the Lighthouse. First, scope referred to the parameters of the Draft EIS, which was submitted last month. Second, scope refers to the final contents of the project, which will be settled with the Town of Hempstead (as Lead Agency) upon review and finalization of the EIS.
Tomorrow we will look at the steps involved within the SEQR process, including timelines mandated by the state law for completion. Since some steps are being done in parallel, it does not wholly apply to the Lighthouse, but it helps to understand where we are and where we need to go.
GO TO MEETING
This is just a friendly reminder to attend the Not Pep Rally sponsored by the Lighthouse TOMORROW, Thursday, March 26, at 7PM in the Long Island Marriott. Come and make your voice heard.
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