Four years after beginning the process, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) issued its proposed amendments to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) regulations (“SEQRA Regulations”). According to NYSDEC, the “principal purpose of the amendments is to streamline the SEQR[A] process without sacrificing meaningful environmental review.”

For many, the most notable proposed amendments to the SEQRA Regulations include revisions to the lists of Type I and Type II actions. Those revisions reduce certain Type I action thresholds, which may require agencies to render Type I action determinations that previously may have been considered Unlisted or Type II. For Type I actions, an applicant must submit a full environmental assessment form, and an agency must perform a coordinated environmental review; in addition, they are most likely to require an environmental impact statement. Unlisted actions only require a short environmental assessment form and an uncoordinated environmental review, while Type II actions are not subject to SEQRA’s environmental review.

In contrast, however, NYSDEC is proposing to increase the list of Type II actions, particularly for projects that align with New York State’s environmental and energy policy goals. Examples of actions that would be considered Type II under the proposed amendments include (1) retrofitting an existing structure or facility to incorporate green infrastructure, (2) installing fiber-optic or other broadband cable technology in existing highway or utility rights of way, and (3) installing five megawatts or less of solar energy arrays on certain properties or structures. The proposed amendments to the lists of Type I and Type II actions are likely to impact many applicants and agencies.

NYSDEC is accepting comments on the proposed amendments until close of business on May 19, 2017. As a result, agencies such as IDAs, developers and applicants should analyze the proposed amendments to the SEQRA regulations, and consider whether it may be appropriate to submit comments to NYSDEC.